Following parliamentary procedure guidelines for ballot voting

A list of rules and procedures around ballot voting that may guide groups in utilizing the tool.

Often, questions arise around proper voting techniques when using ballot voting. Groups will sometimes use simple voting or a raise of hands to avoid the extra steps in ballot voting. However, raising of hands or a simple vote isn’t the best practice for things such as elections and ballots should be utilized. Michigan State University Extension offers the following list of rules and procedures around ballot voting that may guide groups in utilizing ballot voting.

  • President should vote. For ballot voting of membership, a president casts their vote along with everyone else as part of the membership. They would not be utilized to break a tie in ballot voting.
  • Secret ballot. The best practice for elections is to use secret ballot voting when electing members to a board or committee or when electing officers. In these types of elections, a raise of hands or a simple “aye” should not be used. Having ballot voting allows for everyone to vote in private and not be swayed by popularity or intimidation.
  • Majority rules voting. Most groups use a simple “majority rules” to determine the winner in a ballot voting scenario. This means that the person receiving the most votes wins the office. This form of voting is preferred when there are only two candidates and is commonly used when there are more than two candidates. Occasionally, this type of voting can result in a tie. When more than two candidates are running for a position, the candidate receiving the least votes can be dropped from the ballot, then a re-vote can take place for the top in order to break a tie. If a tie still exists, then a coin toss is suggested.
  • Preferential voting. Another option to voting is to use preferential voting when there are three or more candidates. This type of voting will often eliminate ties. In this process, the voter would rank the candidates. For example, if they are voting for three candidates, they would put a “1” next to the person they feel would best fit the job, a “2” next to the second best and a “3” next to the third choice. If a tie still exists, then a coin toss is suggested.
  • Voiding ballots. If a ballot allows for someone to vote for three and they have voted for four, then the entire ballot is void. If ballots are returned either by mail or to the appropriate person collecting the ballots outside of a meeting, they must remain sealed until the tellers determined to count the ballots are all present. If a ballot is opened or unsealed before the official counting takes place, it is void.
  • Valid ballots. If a ballot allows for three votes and less than three are cast, the ballot is still valid and should be accepted.
  • Collecting ballots. Ballots done by mail should not be mailed to a volunteer’s house, but instead be mailed to the county MSU Extension office for collection. Ballots should remain sealed until official counting takes place.
  • Counting ballots. Often, this is done by the secretary and at least one other person determined by the committee. If the secretary is affected by the election, such as they or a family member is on the ballot, they should excuse themselves from counting ballots. There should always be more than one person counting the ballots. MSU Extension staff members are often acceptable tellers because they are unable to vote in most 4-H council and committee elections.
  • Destroying ballots. After the election takes place and the results are verified, it is common practice in 4-H to accept a motion to destroy the ballots. This practice is so ballots from all elections do not have to be stored and kept, taking up valuable storage space. Once the vote is verified and accepted, there is really no reason to review the ballots again.

If you have further questions in regards to parliamentary procedure or voting, please contact the Leadership Civic Engagement Team at You may also find other valuable resources at the MSU Extension Leadership and Citizenship website.

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