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Guest Bob Hadley

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Guest Bob Hadley

A question as come up about what constitutes an "illegal ballot" that is to be counted in a ballot election of an officer. In this case, messengers were instructed to use a particular ballot in a book of ballots, let's say ballot number 10 (as opposed to ballots 5 through 19). The messengers were then instructed to mark that ballot for one of two candidates nominated for a particular office. Ballots were collected and tallied and the teller committee set lets say 122 of those ballots as "illegal ballots" because lets say 105 were turned on a different ballot number than instructed. 

I understand that the ballots cast on the wrong number can not be used because someone could cast more than one ballot. My question is, would improper ballots be "illegal ballots" that must be counted to determine a majority OR would they simply be dismissed as a blank ballot would because the ballot itself is disqualified. My argument is since the ballot itself is not valid it is not by definition an illegal ballot" that has to be counted in the ballot total to determine a percentage of votes received. As I read RRO, it seems to me that the ballot must be a valid ballot and if the vote cannot be determined on a valid ballot it THEN becomes an illegal ballot and that ballot must be counted in the ballot total. 

If the ballot is not valid then it is simply discarded. A ballot cast on the wrong numbered ballot would be treated as a ballot cast on a plain piece of paper...  it is not valid and set aside and not counted in the ballot total. If it is a valid ballot cast then RRO is used if it cannot be determined what the vote is, it becomes an "illegal ballot" and must THEN be counted in the ballot total. 

I was actually over-ruled.

 

Thanks!

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I don't think RONR agrees with your conclusion about the ballots being invalid. Here's what the book says:

"All ballots that indicate a preference - provided they have been cast by persons entitled to vote - are taken into account in determining the number of votes cast for purposes of computing the majority. Each such ballot is credited to the voter's preferred candidate or choice if the meaning of the ballot is clear and the choice is valid. Unintelligible ballots or ballots cast for an unidentifiable or ineligible candidate are treated instead as illegal votes - that is, they are counted as votes cast but are not credited to any candidate or choice."
(RONR, 11th ed. p. 415, l.32 - p.416, l.5)

So, if the choice of candidate is clear on these ballots, even if they are not on the stipulated ballot form, I believe they must be counted as valid votes for the candidates indicated on each ballot, unless you have very specific rules addressing this issue. Also, from the above wording in RONR, these ballots do not qualify as illegal votes, as long as the choices were for eligible candidates.

I do agree, though, that you might have a problem with someone casting multiple ballots. That issue, however, is usually dealt with by controlling how eligible voters receive their ballots rather than in the ballot counting process, since most ballot votes, by definition, are conducted as secret ballots.

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I  agree with Mr. Lages.  Unless you have a customized rule to the contrary, using an improper or "unorthodox" ballot form or misspelling a name or marking with an X instead of with a check mark or completely filling in a circle per the instructions does not invalidate the ballot as long as the voter's intent can be ascertained.

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Guest

Thank you for the input. I apologize for the use of the term "illegal vote." It should have been "illegal ballot" as defined by RRO. 

Let me narrow my question a bit as the responses are not quite applicable. I understand how RRO would work on a valid ballot. My question is,
 with no regard for the vote it contains, then is that ballot considered an "illegal ballot" to be counted in the vote total to compute percentages for candidates?

My position is, if the ballot is not valid, ie a piece of blank paper as opposed to a printed ballot for the purpose of casting a vote provided to members or even numbered ballots improperly submitted, ie Ballot number 10    as opposed to ballot number 16 in a case where a number of votes will be taken in a business setting. As I read RRO there are two issues to be considered. 

First, is the ballot received valid. If the answer is NO the ballot itself is not a valid ballot, then it is set aside and not counted in the vote total. The second consideration shifts to the valid ballot itself. If the ballot is a valid ballot THEN the information on that ballot is considered to tally votes and IF the information on that ballot is indeterminable it becomes an "illegal ballot" and must be counted in the vote total to determine percentages of votes for each candidate. 

Thanks again for the input! I appreciate it. 

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Guest

I am sorry. I see Mr. Huynh's point and "illegal ballot" above should read "illegal vote." 

So simply put, an illegal vote can only be on a valid ballot, correct? If the ballot itself disqualifies the vote and the content on that ballot is not to be considered, then it cannot be an illegal vote and therefore not included in the vote total to determine percentages to each candidate?

 

Bob

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27 minutes ago, Guest said:

I am sorry. I see Mr. Huynh's point and "illegal ballot" above should read "illegal vote." 

So simply put, an illegal vote can only be on a valid ballot, correct? If the ballot itself disqualifies the vote and the content on that ballot is not to be considered, then it cannot be an illegal vote and therefore not included in the vote total to determine percentages to each candidate?

I don't believe that you can get a definitive answer to your question based upon the rules in RONR because you appear to be using a unique balloting system crafted by your own rules.

I gather that the system you are using relies solely upon the number on the ballot to be sure that no member votes more than once, and not upon tellers making sure that members place only one ballot in the ballot box when ballots are collected. If, however, your tellers are responsible for seeing to it that members place only one ballot in the ballot box, as described in RONR (11th ed.), on pages 414-415, then I agree with what is said in the next to last paragraph of Mr. Lages' response.

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Guest

We have a group lets say 500 members gathered for an annual meeting and ballots are collected by ushers and then counted by tellers. So numbered ballots are used for a particular vote and then other numbered ballots are used for different votes that may need to be taken.

I find it interesting that there does not seem to be any difference on what constitutes a valid ballot and what constitutes a valid vote. This is the issue I am seeking clarity on with respect to RRO. I might be in the wrong place. However, this would seem to be an issue for anyone collecting ballots and determining an accurate outcome.

I do not mean to belabor my point BUT I do see this as an important issue. If a ballot (in ANY voting situation) is not a valid ballot, whether it be the wrong ballot cast or in this case even the wrong ballot number, it is dismissed and the vote cast is not considered at all. An illegal vote, which is to be counted must be placed on a valid ballot, correct? 
 

Thanks once again. I will let this post rest. I appreciate the responses. 

 

Bob

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2 minutes ago, Guest said:

If a ballot (in ANY voting situation) is not a valid ballot, whether it be the wrong ballot cast or in this case even the wrong ballot number, it is dismissed and the vote cast is not considered at all.

An illegal vote, which is to be counted must be placed on a valid ballot, correct? 

Wait a minute.

Under the plain application of Robert's Rules of Order, there is no such thing as an "official ballot".

A plain piece of paper is sufficient to act as a paper ballot, if you are reliant on the plain text of Robert's Rules of Order, and have no customized rule in place.

Once you adopt a customization that "no ballot is authorized except that which the organization has numbered," then your question is no longer a question about "conformance to Robert's Rules", but "conformance to the specialized rules of the organization."

Under Robert's Rules of Order, no rule is violated when the voter substitutes perfume-laced pink stationery for an issued ballot, as long as the voting (the markings on the paper) are legible and clear in intent.

However, the perfumed-laced pink stationery might violate a customized rule. -- And so for that problem, you must solve it on your own.

 

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6 minutes ago, Guest said:

I do not mean to belabor my point BUT I do see this as an important issue. If a ballot (in ANY voting situation) is not a valid ballot, whether it be the wrong ballot cast or in this case even the wrong ballot number, it is dismissed and the vote cast is not considered at all. An illegal vote, which is to be counted must be placed on a valid ballot, correct? 
 

Bob

Does this statement appear as such in your rules?  If not, then Mr. Goldsworthy's response just above gives you RONR's rules on the subject.  I would also say that - since such a rule clearly impacts a member's fundamental right to cast a vote - any such rule wold have to be at the bylaw level, or possibly as a special rule of order (although I'm not certain whether a special rule of order is sufficient). Do you have such a rule in your bylaws?

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Mr. Lages raises an interesting question as to whether a rule prescribing the form of the ballot must be in the bylaws or, as a possible alternative, in a special rule of order.  I'm not sure it has to be either.  RONR, on page 439, states that the method of voting can be determined by the adoption of a motion doing so.  Here is what may be the key language from page 439:  "Where there is no determining rule, a motion to fix the method of voting (or any other detail of nomination or election procedure) is an incidental main motion if made before the election is pending, or an incidental motion if made while the election is pending (30, 31)" (Emphasis mine).

I don't know the answer. A bylaw level rule would be nice, but I don't know  that it's required. I believe that the adoption of a motion requiring a certain ballot form would be permissible as long as it does not violate some higher level rule or a fundamental principle of parliamentary procedure.  RUNR also says the custom of the society should be followed unless a motion is adopted to do otherwise.  The method they use does seem like a good way to insure that  only members vote and that members vote only once.

I'm interested in what others have to say.

Edited by Richard Brown
Edited to add word "whether" to the first sentence.

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After I wrote that, I had second thoughts about it. Certainly a society has the right to set the details of the election procedure by motion, such as fixing the time for which the polls will be open, the method of voting ( ballot, roll call, etc), as well as other details. It is not a much of a stretch to include the type of ballot in those details. However, what gives me pause is the situation where the legitimate choice of an eligible voter, which is clearly discernible on the ballot submitted, is discarded because the ballot submitted differs from the approved ballot. I'm not sure that any of the other election procedure variables that can be set by incidental motion have that drastic an effect.

I too am interested in other viewpoints.

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I don't think that there is anything in parliamentary law which prevents an assembly from adopting a rule which is designed to identify persons entitled to vote. For example, a convention can certainly adopt a rule requiring persons to wear a certain badge in order to participate in its proceedings, such as Rule 2 on page 622 of RONR (11th ed.).

I'm not at all prepared to offer an opinion concerning the validity of the rule described by Guest Bob Hadley, however, without a great deal more information concerning the rule itself, how it was adopted, and the nature of this organization and its proceedings. The rule in question here doesn't seem to be designed to prevent votes from being cast by persons not entitled to vote, but, instead, seems to be designed to prevent persons entitled to vote from casting more than one vote. I don't understand why it is necessary to resort to this method of doing so, but I suspect that there is nothing in RONR which would prevent an assembly from adopting such a rule. If it does, however, it had better also specify how these "illegal ballots" are to be treated by the tellers.

The problem with the rule appears to be that there seems to be no way to determine if a ballot is one which was cast by an eligible voter who simply made a mistake in pulling the wrong ballot out of his book of ballots, or was a ballot cast by a member who voted twice (and hence was not entitled to vote the second time).

 

 

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Guest Zev
10 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

...

I don't understand why it is necessary to resort to this method of doing so, ...

I strongly suspect that the reason is because there is minimal or no security at the ballot boxes and voters can insert any number of pieces of paper without any teller scrutiny.

10 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

... but, instead, seems to be designed to prevent persons entitled to vote from casting more than one vote.

Well said. I cannot think of another reason.

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