Have you ever conducted a nomination and election of directors and/or officers of an organization? If so, it is likely you've encountered common assumptions about the process.
In fact, many of these assumptions may originate in myth rather than fact. This article seeks to dispel typical myths. It relies on the most commonly used Parliamentary Authority, the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (abbreviated herein as RONR).
Myth 1: "The Chair must invite nominations from the floor three times before declaring nominations closed." In fact, RONR makes no mention of three calls for nominations. All it indicates is that the Chair must pause and allow reasonable opportunities to nominate. Note: Although RONR provides for nominations from the floor, in some organizations the Bylaws prohibit them.
Myth 2: "If Ann receives 8 votes, Bill receives 5 votes, Carol receives 3 votes, and Don receives 1 vote, then Ann is elected." In fact, unless your bylaws explicitly stipulate that a plurality elects (i.e.: the person receiving the largest number of votes is elected), a majority is required to elect. In the above example, the total number of votes cast is 17, a majority of which is 9. Since no one received 9 or more votes, no one was elected, and a second ballot is required to determine the outcome.
Myth 3: "If no candidate receives a majority, the nominee who received the lowest number of votes is dropped from the ballot and a second ballot is taken." In fact, unless your bylaws explicitly provide for this practice, RONR stipulates that no one gets dropped from the ballot. It suggests that, where opinions are deeply divided, the nominee who receives the lowest number of votes may prove to be "the dark horse" who attracts the broad support necessary to be elected in a subsequent ballot.
Myth 4: "Only those who are formally nominated are eligible to be elected. Votes that are cast for someone who was not nominated are not counted." In fact, unless your bylaws prohibit "write-in" votes, RONR permits them, i.e.: Anyone who is eligible to serve in office is eligible to be voted. "Write-in" votes enable a group to respond when a slate of nominees is seen as unsatisfactory.
Myth 5: "If the bylaws require an election by ballot, but there is only one nominee for a position, the ballot is foregone and the nominee is elected by acclamation." In fact, unless your bylaws provide for this practice, RONR stipulates that an unqualified requirement of a vote by ballot cannot be waived, even when the number of nominees equals or is less than the number of open positions. The rationale is that the ballot allows people to vote for write-in candidates.
Myth 6: "If there are eight nominees for five equal positions (e.g.: five Board positions become available), then a member must vote for exactly five candidates, or else the ballot is not counted." In fact, unless your bylaws force electors to vote for a full slate, RONR allows a voter to partly abstain by voting for less the than full number of positions to be filled. This makes sense, as no one should be forced to vote for five candidates if she or he only knows or has confidence in three of the eight nominees.
Here is a word of caution: Before you take my word or RONR as the final word, check your organization's governing documents (applicable legislation, bylaws) and see what they provide, because these documents will supersede anything written in this article.
I hope this information is helpful to you.