2 Common Nominations Mistakes

It’s election season, and you’re ready to make some nominations and vote. But there are two mistakes that are frequently made when it comes to deciding who should be listed on a ballot:

  1. People think you can’t run for a position if you’re a member of the nominating committee.
  2. And people think you must have more than one nominee on the ballot for each open spot.

Robert’s Rules of Order provides insight on both questions.

1. You can run for a position even if you are on the nominating committee.

Being on the nominating committee doesn’t preclude you from running for an open position. Anyone who is willing and qualified can be presented as a candidate—even people who are doing the official nominating.

Robert’s Rules details a little of the logic behind this rule: If nominating committee members were prohibited from being nominees, this would mean that serving on the committee comes with a penalty. Essentially we’d be saying, “Thanks for helping determine who can be on the ballot, but you won’t be able to be on the ballot yourself—sorry.” You can see how this could work against the organization’s success as a whole: Good, qualified people interested in running for a position at some point would decline serving on the nominating committee, limiting and eventually weakening that committee’s function.

And Robert’s Rules speaks to an even more subversive motive. Think about it…. If that were the rule—no nominating committee member can be a nominee—then if you really don’t want someone to run, just appoint or elect them to the nominating committee. Yikes.

So, the wisdom of Robert’s Rules—understanding human nature—is to let anyone, including nominating committee members—be presented as a nominee.

And yes, if you’re on the committee, you may offer yourself as a candidate if you’re qualified. No need to get all humble and decline. Actually, it’s great if you’re on the committee and willing to run for a position to serve in another capacity. Every organization needs good officers and directors, and your service on a committee shows your dedication to the group and your interest in leading. Being on the nominating committee doesn’t mean you can’t run—it’s actually a good step towards running.

2. Unless your rules specify, you do not need to list more than one nominee for a position on the ballot. 

A nominating committee can list one nominee only. Or the committee can list more—even a very long list. But listing only one is fine.

Going back to our good ‘ole parliamentary authority again, though—Robert’s Rules says that having a rule that requires more than one nominee for an office is actually a bad idea.

Here’s the logic: We might think that nominating only one candidate is never a good idea because it means no competition/shoo-in/automatic/surely there’s other good options/we’re stuck with this person. And for some people, that feels really un-American.

But Robert’s Rules says the reverse is effectively useless: A requirement of more than one person on the ballot is no better because it’s easy to work around that rule by just loading the ballot with people that no one knows or no one would elect. End result? Most people would still vote for the originally proposed nominee and you’ve gained nothing by requiring more than one.

So, happy nominating! Nominate yourself even, if you want. And if there’s just one name on the ballot per spot, no worries.

Where to Learn More