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Rules for counting Ballots


Guest James Garrett
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Guest James Garrett

I have a question concerning the determination of the winner of an election for a position on our group’s executive committee.  The elections are held at the group’s annual meeting of the delegate members.  [Some background:  Our group has a couple thousand members of the general public with some 30 branches spread across the region.  Prior to the annual meeting each branch gets together and selects a defined number of delegates to attend the delegate meeting.  Only delegates may attend the annual delegate’s meeting.  It is the delegates who vote on and elect the members of the executive committee.  We generally have 300 to 400 delegates at the annual meeting.]

 

Our Rules for the annual meeting has a clause which states:  Except as otherwise provided in the Bylaws, the Annual Meeting shall be conducted in compliance with the most current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order – Newly Revised.  Our Rules also has this clause:  The next order of business shall be the election of a new Executive Vice-President, which shall be determined by a majority of the votes cast.  There shall be a run-off election between the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes, if necessary, to break a tie.

 

The question I have involves a recent annual meeting and the election of a new EVP.  The circumstances here were we had three candidates running for the position.  The delegates vote on paper ballots and indicate their choice for a candidate by writing the name of their chosen candidate on the ballot and then turning in the ballot when they are collected for counting. 

 

On the first ballot no candidate received a majority of the votes; therefore, a run-off election was held.  On the second ballot the delegates was told to choose between the two candidates who had previously received the highest number of votes.  On the second and third ballots neither of the two named candidates received a majority of the votes cast because the delegates returned blank ballots or ballots with names such as the third candidate from the first ballot, character names such as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse or Jesus Christ.  Finally on the fourth ballot it was decide by the Certification Committee to exclude all names other than the two named candidates and only count the ballots with those designated candidate’s names.

 

The question is how should we have handled the blank ballots and the ballots with non-candidate names of the second and subsequent ballots?

 

Sorry this has become so long but I felt it was necessary to convey the necessary circumstances.

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The thing that bothers me is this Certification Committee issuing some kind of opinion on how the election should be conducted. The assembly has complete control over their elections. If the bylaws said such a committee had some influence at election time, the rules could still be suspended and the committee's opinions disregarded. It should also be noted that otherwise eligible candidates cannot be excluded on subsequent balloting. The only way to exclude a person's candidacy is by way of a bylaw provision. Even then ballots for these individuals are treated as illegal ballots and not discarded as blanks.

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I would just point out that you quote your rule as " There shall be a run-off election between the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes, if necessary, to break a tie. While none of the three candidates received a majority of the votes cast on the first ballot. that does not imply that there was "a tie". Perhaps a run-off should have been held between the top two vote- getters if, in fact, they both did receive the same number of votes. i.e., an actual tie vote, but if they did not, it doesn't seem that your quoted rule should apply, and there should have been a second round of balloting with all three candidates included.

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13 hours ago, Guest James Garrett said:

The question is how should we have handled the blank ballots and the ballots with non-candidate names of the second and subsequent ballots?

Blank ballots are not counted. Ballots with “character names” are counted as illegal votes - they are not credited to any candidate, but they are counted for purposes of determining a majority. Additionally, the Certification Committee did not have the power to decide this question unless your rules so provide. It should have been decided by the assembly.

I also concur with Zev that unless the runoff rule was in the bylaws, votes for the third candidate must still be credited (and even if it was in the bylaws, they would be counted as illegal votes).

Edited by Josh Martin
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Guest James Garrett

Thank you for your individual replies, they have been very helpful in understanding the process and results.

The next time this circumstance occurs we will be better prepared to handle it more correctly.

Again, thanks for your replies.

 

 

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