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I have a question about illegal ballots. Recently, our church voted on deacons. We had 3 needing to be replaced because their term limit was up. Voting was done on paper ballots with 5 names listed on the ballot. The ballot stated "Please vote by circling the three (3) men you wish to vote for." The three with the most votes were elected. There was 1 ballot that was blank. It was thrown out. Another had all 5 circled. It was thrown out. We had several ballots that had only 2 circled or 1 circled. That's where my question is centered and where I have been searching for an answer with no luck. Should those ballots be counted as illegal and not counted at all or is that a privilege of the voter to vote for only who he wants to vote for?  In my opinion, especially in the case of deacons, if you only think two of the candidates are qualified to serve in that capacity, you shouldn't have to vote for 3, but your votes for the other 2 should be counted. Others in our church say that throws off the election and gives a candidate an advantage and if they don't vote for the 3 as requested, their ballot should be thrown out. Our current Bylaws do not state anything about this. As we are currently working to revise our Bylaws, I need a ruling on this, and the reason to back it up. Any help would be appreciated. 

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According to the rules in RONR, summarized on tinted page 48 in the table of rules for counting ballots, the ballots you described should be treated as follows:

The blank ballot is not counted toward any candidate and is not counted as a vote cast. It is an abstention. It is essentially discarded and doesn't count for or against anything.

The ballots that contain votes for too many candidates are not credited toward any candidates, but each one of those ballots is counted as a vote cast and affects the number of votes that a candidate needs in order to win. Candidates must receive a majority of the votes cast in order to be elected. Those ballots are not thrown out, but they just don't count for any particular candidate.

RONR is clear that members may vote for fewer than the number of candidates to be elected unless your own rules specifically provide otherwise. Therefore, per RONR, ballots for less than the number of candidates to be elected are credited toward the candidates who those persons voted for and each such ballot counts as a vote cast.

You said that the three candidates with the most votes were elected. Unless your bylaws specifically authorize that, it is not proper unless those candidates also each received a majority of the votes cast. Candidates are never elected by a plurality vote unless you have a specific rule authorizing it.

Besides tinted page 48 in the back of the book, see also pages 415 - 419 and Page 441 of RONR .

 

 

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I can't give you a "ruling," but I can tell you that unless  your bylaws  specifically prohibit partial abstentions, it is perfectly legitimate to vote for fewer candidates that there are postions to be filled, and those votes must be credited to the candidates from whom they were cast.

BTW, unless your bylaws authorize plurality voting, it was not proper to elect "the three with the most votes" unless that all received a majority of the votes cast. If one or more did not receive a majoity, only those who did should have been declared elected, and there should have been additional rounds of voting to fill the other postions.

Also, while it was proper to "throw out" (not count) the blank ballot, it was not proper to thorw out the ballot with five names circled. Although none of the votes could be credited to any candidate, the ballot itself should have been counted as an illegal ballot, and included in the number of votes cast (which could change the number needed for a majority).

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately from the viewpoint of those declared elected), it's too late now to raise a point of order about either error.

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Thanks, guys. It's after midnight here, and I'm trying to let what you've told me sink in. Looks like we might have been doing things all wrong for 183 years. When I get a grasp of this (tomorrow when I'm more awake),  I will be back to clarify some things if you don't mind.

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3 hours ago, Guest Sandra said:

Thanks, guys. It's after midnight here, and I'm trying to let what you've told me sink in. Looks like we might have been doing things all wrong for 183 years. When I get a grasp of this (tomorrow when I'm more awake),  I will be back to clarify some things if you don't mind.

Well, you are in numerous, if not good, company.   But don't worry about the past:  Since no points of order were raised about past errors in a timely manner (see page 250) the results of those sullied votes stand.  Just go thou and sin no more.

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11 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

Dang, Weldon, were you reading my mind as I was typing???!!! 😉

As they say, "Great minds think alike." 😀 I was so focused on  typing my response that I didn't notice that you already had responded saying essentially the same thing. Otherwise, I probably would have just said that I concur with your response.

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39 minutes ago, Weldon Merritt said:

As they say, "Great minds think alike." 😀 I was so focused on  typing my response that I didn't notice that you already had responded saying essentially the same thing. Otherwise, I probably would have just said that I concur with your response.

Well, at the risk of starting another kerfuffle of sorts (let's hope not), I'll say that I much prefer your statement to the effect that a bylaw provision would be required to prohibit partial abstentions in instances such as this, as opposed to Mr. Brown's reference simply to an organization's rules as being sufficient.  :)

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13 hours ago, Weldon Merritt said:

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately from the viewpoint of those declared elected), it's too late now to raise a point of order about either error.

I am not certain about this. It seems to me that improperly throwing out a ballot is essentially denying that member’s right to vote. Therefore, it seems to me that a Point of Order would be timely if the number of such ballots were enough that it could have affected the result.

Edited by Josh Martin
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10 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

It seems to me that improperly throwing out a ballot is essentially denying that member’s right to vote. Therefore, it seems to me that a Point of Order would be timely if the number of such ballots were enough that it could have affected the result.

I agree, and I should have noted that exception.

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