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Election by Ballot


Guest Proper Procedure

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Guest Proper Procedure

Here's the situation...

A five member board is elected to office. The charter under which this body was formed mandates that following each election, the board shall elect by ballot, one of its members to be the presiding officer. This body has also agreed that Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern.

I do not yet have a copy of the Newly Revised Rules, but based upon the public domain 1915 version, it appears that Art. VIII, Sec. 46, Par. 11 Voting by Ballot and Art. XI, Sec. 66, Par. 1 Nominations and Elections are pertinent.

Sec. 46 (Voting by Ballot) states, "The main object of this form of voting is secrecy, and it is resorted to when the question is of such a nature that some members might hesitate to vote publicly their true sentiments. Its special use is in the reception of members, elections..." It also goes on to say, "As the usual object of the ballot is secrecy, where the by-laws require the vote to be taken by ballot any motion is out of order which members cannot oppose without exposing their views on the question to be decided by ballot."

Sec. 66 (Nominations and Elections) states, "Before proceeding to an election to fill an office it is customary to nominate one or more candidates. This nomination is not necessary when the election is by ballot or roll call, as each member may vote for any eligible person whether nominated or not."

After the last election, the board members were verbally asked for nominations to fill the presiding officer position. A board member objected on the grounds that the position is required to be filled by ballot. Essentially, the response was that the vote would be taken by ballot from the lot of nominees. In this instance, only one candidate was publicly nominated. Therefore, there was no need to vote by ballot. The nominee was elected by default.

Following these events, the member who objected to the added step of using nominations expressed his opinion that the outcome of the election may have been different had their not been public nominations. He felt that the five members should have first voted by ballot, and the board member having the majority of the votes would either accept or decline the position. This would have maintained secrecy and would have eliminated the public opinion/influence factor.

Another election is scheduled for November 8th with the presiding officer selection on November 14th, so please respond with your input and guidance ASAP.

Thank you very much for your time.

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Here's the situation...

A five member board is elected to office. The charter under which this body was formed mandates that following each election, the board shall elect by ballot, one of its members to be the presiding officer. This body has also agreed that Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern.

I do not yet have a copy of the Newly Revised Rules, but based upon the public domain 1915 version, it appears that Art. VIII, Sec. 46, Par. 11 Voting by Ballot and Art. XI, Sec. 66, Par. 1 Nominations and Elections are pertinent.

Sec. 46 (Voting by Ballot) states, "The main object of this form of voting is secrecy, and it is resorted to when the question is of such a nature that some members might hesitate to vote publicly their true sentiments. Its special use is in the reception of members, elections..." It also goes on to say, "As the usual object of the ballot is secrecy, where the by-laws require the vote to be taken by ballot any motion is out of order which members cannot oppose without exposing their views on the question to be decided by ballot."

Sec. 66 (Nominations and Elections) states, "Before proceeding to an election to fill an office it is customary to nominate one or more candidates. This nomination is not necessary when the election is by ballot or roll call, as each member may vote for any eligible person whether nominated or not."

After the last election, the board members were verbally asked for nominations to fill the presiding officer position. A board member objected on the grounds that the position is required to be filled by ballot. Essentially, the response was that the vote would be taken by ballot from the lot of nominees. In this instance, only one candidate was publicly nominated. Therefore, there was no need to vote by ballot. The nominee was elected by default.

Following these events, the member who objected to the added step of using nominations expressed his opinion that the outcome of the election may have been different had their not been public nominations. He felt that the five members should have first voted by ballot, and the board member having the majority of the votes would either accept or decline the position. This would have maintained secrecy and would have eliminated the public opinion/influence factor.

Another election is scheduled for November 8th with the presiding officer selection on November 14th, so please respond with your input and guidance ASAP.

Thank you very much for your time.

While nominations are not necessary for election when voting by ballot, nominations are not out of order. However, if your charter requires a ballot vote, it must be used.

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Here's the situation...

A five member board is elected to office. The charter under which this body was formed mandates that following each election, the board shall elect by ballot, one of its members to be the presiding officer. This body has also agreed that Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern.

I do not yet have a copy of the Newly Revised Rules, but based upon the public domain 1915 version, it appears that Art. VIII, Sec. 46, Par. 11 Voting by Ballot and Art. XI, Sec. 66, Par. 1 Nominations and Elections are pertinent.

Another election is scheduled for November 8th with the presiding officer selection on November 14th, so please respond with your input and guidance ASAP.

Thank you very much for your time.

I strongly suggest finding a copy of the 11th edition, and reading §46, which answers most of your questions. If there is but one nominee, that does not mean that the ballot requirement can be avoided (RONR p. 441, l. 25-p. 442, l. 2)

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Guest Proper Procedure

I also meant to reference the following Rules.

Art. IV, Sec. 22, Par. 3 states that, “A rule requiring officers to be elected by ballot cannot be suspended by a unanimous vote, because the rule protects a minority of one from exposing his vote, and this he must do if he votes openly in the negative, or objects to giving general consent.”

Art. IV, Sec. 26, Par. 1

Motions relating to Nominations. “If no method of making nominations is designated by the bylaws or rules, and the assembly has adopted no order on the subject, any one can make a motion prescribing the method of nomination for an office to be filled.”

Art. VIII, Sec. 47, Par. 1

“When a vote is required to be taken by ballot, the object is to enable members to conceal their votes, and any motion that defeats this object is out of order. Thus, when the rules require the vote to be by ballot, as is usual in elections to office or membership, this rule cannot be suspended even by general consent, because no one can object without exposing his vote, which he cannot be compelled to do.”

So in this case, even though no formal motion was made to first have verbal nominations (Sec. 26), nominations were held despite the objections of one board member. Were the public nominations for the position of presiding officer therefore out of order pursuant to Sec. 47? Should the only proper procedure for the election have been to distribute ballots, tally votes, and ask the candidate-elect to accept/decline the position?

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I also meant to reference the following Rules.

Art. IV, Sec. 22, Par. 3 states that, “A rule requiring officers to be elected by ballot cannot be suspended by a unanimous vote, because the rule protects a minority of one from exposing his vote, and this he must do if he votes openly in the negative, or objects to giving general consent.”

Art. IV, Sec. 26, Par. 1

Motions relating to Nominations. “If no method of making nominations is designated by the bylaws or rules, and the assembly has adopted no order on the subject, any one can make a motion prescribing the method of nomination for an office to be filled.”

Art. VIII, Sec. 47, Par. 1

“When a vote is required to be taken by ballot, the object is to enable members to conceal their votes, and any motion that defeats this object is out of order. Thus, when the rules require the vote to be by ballot, as is usual in elections to office or membership, this rule cannot be suspended even by general consent, because no one can object without exposing his vote, which he cannot be compelled to do.”

Please be careful about using past editions of Robert's Rules. While it appears that these particular rule have not changed in nearly 100 years, many other rules have, and using the 1915 edition will only be counterproductive.

So in this case, even though no formal motion was made to first have verbal nominations (Sec. 26), nominations were held despite the objections of one board member. Were the public nominations for the position of presiding officer therefore out of order pursuant to Sec. 47? Should the only proper procedure for the election have been to distribute ballots, tally votes, and ask the candidate-elect to accept/decline the position?

The chair should likely have made a motion (this being a board of five members, the chair is free to make motions) to hold nominations. The fact that a member objected does not make the process invalid, however, as long a ballot was still taken.

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Guest Guest_Proper_Procedure

Here's a little more background info... Apparently, at the time, the board was also told by an attorney that any ballot vote would be in violation of the Open Meetings Act (which this board must abide by), even though the Charter requires a ballot vote.

I'm sure the Open Meetings Act trumps the Charter, but since the Charter requires a ballot vote do Robert's Rules provide any alternative that would not violate the Open Meetings Act?

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Here's a little more background info... Apparently, at the time, the board was also told by an attorney that any ballot vote would be in violation of the Open Meetings Act (which this board must abide by), even though the Charter requires a ballot vote.

I'm sure the Open Meetings Act trumps the Charter, but since the Charter requires a ballot vote do Robert's Rules provide any alternative that would not violate the Open Meetings Act?

Perhaps you could read the Open Meetings Act, and see if its ban on ballot voting is as comprehensive as the attorney claims?

If you are asking if RONR provides a means of voting secretly which is not subsumed under the description 'ballot vote', I can't think of any.

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Perhaps you could read the Open Meetings Act, and see if its ban on ballot voting is as comprehensive as the attorney claims?

Agreeing that it never hurts to read the Act to see what you are operating under I would suspect that since Open Meeting Acts are designed to provide transparency to the public of how governmental entities are operating that any bans on taking secret votes where the public doesn't know who voted which way (which can be ascertained to some extent by any other method of voting) would be quite comprehensive. However, I would for sure check to see if the Board is actually subject to the Open Meeting Act in the first place.

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The rules today on this issue are largely the same as the 1915 edition, but your organization (and you) should be using the 11th edition by now.

Even when a ballot vote is required in the bylaws, nominations would still be in order. An objection to nominations would not be well-founded, as no one is compelled to make nominations, nor to announce which candidate they are supporting.

However, it is not true that if there is only a single nominee, the ballot can be waived. Unless there is a specific provision in the bylaws allowing election by acclamation in the event of an uncontested race (which appears not be the case in your bylaws) then a ballot must be held as required, no matter how many (or few) nominees there are for a position. And voters are free to write in any name whether nominated or not.

But your Sunshine issue complicates things further:

If your bylaws say that a ballot must be held, and your state law provides that no votes may be secret, then it is possible to obey both rules by using a signed ballot. It affords privacy to each vote during the actual balloting, but after votes are counted it allows the vote of each member to be recorded (as is often required by state open meeting laws).

It's not ideal, but at least it doesn't violate the law or the bylaws.


Furthermore, I would venture the opinion that if multiple ballots were held because no candidate achieved a majority, that the identity of voters in those inconclusive rounds would not be subject to disclosure because they did not have the effect of rendering a decision. I would be on admittedly shaky ground venturing it, but venture it I would.
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Guest Proper_Procedure

If your bylaws say that a ballot must be held, and your state law provides that no votes may be secret, then it is possible to obey both rules by using a signed ballot. It affords privacy to each vote during the actual balloting, but after votes are counted it allows the vote of each member to be recorded (as is often required by state open meeting laws).

Thank you! This seems to be the answer!

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