Quick Guide: Election by Acclamation

If you’ve attended any number of meetings or conventions where parliamentary procedure is used and elections are happening, you may have heard someone say, “I move that we elect by acclamation.” Or, post-election, someone may announce, “Peter Politicker is elected by acclamation!” At which point, everyone claps vigorously, and Peter Politicker gives an acceptance speech that is, of course, several minutes longer than necessary.

During Peter’s speech, you may be thinking, (a) Peter just joined our organization last year. How did he even get elected? (b) What in the world does “acclamation” mean? or (c) I wanted to vote “no.” Why didn’t the chair ask for the “no” votes?

I can’t help you with that first question, but if you want answers to b and c, read on.

“Acclamation” Means “Enthusiastic Approval”

Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what “acclamation” means. According to Webster’s, “acclamation” is “a loud eager expression of approval, praise, or assent.” So, to elect by “acclamation” means to elect by a loud expression of approval – such as clapping.

Election by Acclamation Is Allowed When Only One Person Is Nominated

According to Robert’s Rules, election by acclamation is reserved for those times when only one person is nominated. Because there’s only one candidate and no other options, there’s no need to say, “All those in favor of Peter Politicker, say ‘aye.’ All those opposed, say, ‘no.’” Instead, the group can simply declare – by enthusiastic approval – that Peter is elected. In short, when a candidate is uncontested, the election becomes a declaration of a result – by clapping – rather than a traditional picking between options.

Be cautious though. The chair does have to make sure that in fact only one person has been nominated. And he can do this by asking those present at the meeting if there are any further nominations.

Election by Acclamation Is Not Allowed When the Bylaws Require a Ballot Vote

Before you get too excited about saving time at your next convention and electing everyone by acclamation, check your bylaws. If the bylaws require elections to take place by ballot, you cannot elect by acclamation. Electing by acclamation is a form of voice vote, and if the bylaws say, “Ballot vote required for elections,” then you have to use ballots and save the vigorous clapping for another day.

Election by Acclamation Means that No One Gets to Vote “No”

Here’s one more quick tip. If you want to look like you’re a parliamentary procedure pro (and who wouldn’t?), don’t ask for a “no” vote. Here’s why: You don’t want to give the group the option of not electing anyone at all.

Think about it this way. When at least two candidates are on the ballot, you check one box – for Peter Politicker or for Sally Smoothtalker. Because there’s not (and shouldn’t be) a “yes” and “no” box for each person, you vote against one by voting for the other. And the effect is that one of them is elected to office. But when only one candidate is nominated and a voice vote is taken, the only way to prevent a scenario where no one is elected is to just not give the group that option.

Here are the takeaways. Election by acclamation is a good thing. Use it when your bylaws don’t require a ballot vote and when only one person is nominated for office. And by all means . . . clap loudly and make Peter Politicker’s day.

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