Holding a 4-H officer election can be anxiety-free

Relieve the anxiety of a 4-H officer election by following these few easy steps.

4-H meeting

Often, the presiding officer has anxiety when charged with running an election. This anxiety is usually because they are unfamiliar with the steps in holding the election since it is only done once a year. Michigan State University Extension has come up with the following easy steps that are designed to relieve that anxiety.

If the group’s bylaws spell out a specific procedure for nomination and election, they should be followed. If not, follow the procedure below.

4-H committees and clubs should always start the election of officers with the position of president. This is so candidates can run for another position if they are not elected. The acting president simply asks if there are any nominations for the position of president. Each person with a nomination should raise their hand and wait to be recognized by the president.

Once a person is nominated, the president should then ask the person if they accept the nomination. If they do, their name is placed on the ballot. It is completely appropriate to accept self-nominations and the acting president may also be nominated.

Occasionally, you will see someone nominate a person and quickly call to close the nominations. The president should thank them, but not ask for a second and instead simply say something like, “I would like to give everyone an opportunity to either nominate themselves or another person before we close the nominations.” Deciding who will lead your organization is not something to be taken lightly, and rushing through the process might exclude good candidates.

Once all the nominations are in, the president should then ask for a motion to close the nominations. A nice touch at this point would be to have each candidate stand and tell something about themselves and why they might like the position at hand.

If there is more than one candidate, then a secret ballot should always be taken. Two members who are not running for the position and are not related to anyone running should then count the ballots and report the winner to the president, who will then present the results to the group.

If there was only one candidate, a quick way to cast the vote would be for the president to ask for someone to close the nominations and cast a unanimous ballot for [name of individual] for the position of [name of position]. They would then obtain a second and ask for the vote.

Continue this same process through the other officer positions: president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. If the group has other officer positions, such as corresponding secretary and reporter, they can be added to the end of the list.

The reason for running the election in this order is simply to follow the order of who runs the meeting if someone is absent. For example, if the president is absent then the vice president takes over the meeting. If the president and vice president are absent, then the secretary will run the meeting or appoint someone to do so and so on down the list. An election should run in the same order of who runs the meeting when someone is absent.

Finally, at the end of the election, the president should ask for a motion to destroy the ballots. Destroying the ballots is a great way to ensure you do not have to hold onto the results for an undisclosed amount of time. Once two people have counted the ballots, there is no reason to keep the results, but if a motion is not made to destroy them, then they must be kept. Keeping ballots is cumbersome and not necessary for these types of elections.

A quick recap of the steps is as follows:

  • Open the floor for nominations.
  • Close the nominations.
  • Have the candidates introduce themselves and tell why they would like to serve in this position.
  • Vote by secret ballot if there is more than one candidate.
  • Start the process over again with the next position, finishing one position at a time before moving on (vice president, secretary, treasurer, corresponding secretary, etc.).
  • Ask for a motion to destroy ballots.

Any 4-H group in need of parliamentary procedure training or for further information about holding an election should contact MSU Extension’s leadership civic engagement work team at 4-HLeadership@anr.msu.edu.

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