Should an Announcement of Election Results Include Votes by Candidate?

Jim Slaughter

This question was recently asked on a national HOA/condo list serve: “In a board of directors election, should the vote totals by candidate be released to the membership?”

Without question, the answer of how election results are announced could vary by state, depending on state statutes. If a statute provides a specific process for elections, that process should be followed. Similarly, if the organization has clear provisions in its governing documents, such as the bylaws, follow that process. However, for associations that follow Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, either due to state law or the governing documents, there is guidance:
It is a better practice to announce the actual vote as part of the election results.

This issue is addressed in both my books on meeting procedure, but here’s the language from page 136-137 of Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fourth Edition:

Should the votes received be announced as part of the election results?
Always. Announcing the votes received by each candidate has procedural and political benefits. By hearing actual numbers, members may realize a counting or procedural error occurred in the balloting, which can then be corrected. In addition, candidates not elected may be less enthusiastic about challenging the results when they realize the vote spread was quite large. Robert’s [Rules of Order] advises that the “tellers’ report is entered in full in the minutes, becoming a part of theofficial record of the organization. Under no circumstances should this be omitted in an election or in a vote on a critical motion out of a mistaken deference to the feelings of unsuccessful candidates or members of the losing side” (RONR, p. 418).

Whether or not Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th Edition) is relevant to your association (based on state statute and/or the association’s governing documents), this is still good guidance.

IMPORTANT POINT: The question asks about vote totals by candidate being “released.” That raises an important distinction. As noted above, do what any specific documents or statutes provide, but even those associations that follow Robert’s sometimes don’t announce the individual totals out loud at the meeting, but make them available to anyone who asks, including the candidates. Robert’s notes elsewhere that “When . . . the vote is by ballot, the number of votes on each side should be entered [in the minutes].” (RONR § 48, p. 470).

My experience is that an association is setting itself up for more dispute than it needs if, out of a sense of not embarrassing a candidate, it doesn’t allow the membership to find out (if they wish to) how many votes were cast, how many each person received, etc. The appearance of being secretive or that something is being covered up can often become a bigger issue than the election results would have been.

For general information on elections, I’ll recommend this online CAI manuscript, Running a Darn Good Meeting: What You Need to Know About Parliamentary Procedure. Also, both my books discuss election procedure, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parliamentary Procedure Fast-Track and Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fourth Edition