First things first: What’s a teller? In the world of parliamentary procedure, a teller is a person who helps to pass out, collect, and count ballots, and a head teller reports the results of a vote to the chair for announcement.
Choosing tellers for a meeting usually goes like this:
Chairman Always-On-the-Ball: [Five minutes before meeting, thinking to himself] Oh, wait. We need tellers to count the votes for the election. Oops. Forgot about that. Let’s see . . . Jim doesn’t look busy. He’d probably be good. And [scanning room] . . . Jenny. She seems super organized.
“Hey . . . Jim and Jenny, can y’all be tellers for today’s election? Just show people where to put their ballots and then count the ballots once we’re done voting. Sound good? Awesome! You’re the best! Feel free to pick some other warm bodies to help out, okay?”
Question: Chairman Always-On-the-Ball is (a) quick on his feet and troubleshooter extraordinaire; (b) clearly knowledgeable about teller responsibilities; or (c) primed for balloting mayhem. If you picked c, you win.
Maybe the above scenario seems like no big deal. Tellers are a dime a dozen, right? No. Does it really make that much of a difference? Yes. A thousand times, yes.
Tellers may seem expendable, but when the results of an election or other balloted vote are close, the last – and I mean, the very last, thing you want is to have a balloting process that members can question. What you want to know – in a stake-your-life-on-it sort of way – is that every vote was counted properly, and that every vote counted was in fact a legal vote. And let me tell you, that ain’t happenin’ unless you have rock star tellers.
Here’s what a rock star teller looks like:
Rock star tellers can count.
This one is simple. Pick tellers because of intelligence and discernment. Yes, I’ve met Ms. Would-Do-Anything-For-Anyone, and she’s the best. But unless she’s also great with math, she’s probably better off handing out programs.
Rock star tellers are dependable.
Another simple one. Pick the guy that’s going to do this as if his life depends on it, not the dude that’s going to get bored halfway through and find someone to take his place while he checks out the afternoon dessert spread the hotel just put out.
Rock star tellers are trusted.
Shady, slightly dishonest people need not apply. The best tellers are people who have a solid reputation as unquestionably trustworthy. This person is going to require everyone who casts a ballot to show proper credentials, whether they’re his BFF or not. And once the polls are closed, he’s going to say “no” to the woman who got stuck at the silent auction on her way to the ballot box and missed the voting cut-off. Bottom line: The membership’s confidence in tellers should be super high.
Rock star tellers don’t have a personal stake in the outcome.
Avoid picking people who have a personal interest in the outcome. So, don’t pick tellers who are candidates in the election. Or a candidate’s spouse. Or her children. Again – tellers need to create confidence, not suspicion.
Rock star tellers are invested in the vote outcome.
I know this sounds like a contradiction to the previous point. But while you don’t want tellers with a conflict of interest, you actually do want tellers who are personally invested in the group’s business. What this means is that you can and may want to include tellers who are publicly supportive of a candidate. But if you go this route, make sure you include someone like that for every candidate, not just one candidate. Involving tellers from every faction of the vote can save you from accusations of partisan results.
And a final note: Remind the tellers to vote. Rock star tellers aren’t prohibited from voting just because they’re tellers.
If by now you’re thinking, “Good grief, it’s a heap of work to pick out tellers,” then I’ve done my job. Selecting top-notch tellers takes forethought. But trust me, you’ll have no regrets about careful teller choices if the results of your election or vote are close or contested.