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Our board is filling several seats on the budget committee. We have more applicants than seats. How do we go about voting to fill those seats?

Robert's Rules allows for several methods of filling appointments where there is more than one candidate. Robert’s start with the concept that the board votes to approve a method, or writes one in the charter or bylaws or policy.

Unless you already have a method specified in your policies you can begin by having the board make a motion that defines the process, discuss and take a vote on what the process will be.
Oregon law doesn't require any particular process. It does require that all votes be public, and that the person appointed receive the votes of a majority of the board.

Here is the process that I recommend (and it is one approved by Robert's Rules). This process should be provided to the board in writing in advance of the meeting, probably in the packet, with a statement that the board chair is proposing to use this process this year due to multiple candidates. Have an agenda item to ask the board to discuss, vote and approve the process.

  1. The board chair provides a list of all those who have volunteered for the vacant seats. If there was any application form or letter of interest required to be submitted, those materials should be provided to board members as well. They can be provided in the board packet in advance of the meeting.
  2. Agenda item: Budget committee appointments.
  3. The board chair announces: "the floor is now open for nominations for (two or however many) budget committee seats. I will take nominations for the first seat, we will complete the process for the first seat and then begin again for the second seat. I now declare nominations open for the first budget committee seat." 
  4. Board members raise their hand (or voice) and say "I nominate X". "I nominate Y."
  5. Nominations stay open until there are no more nominations. Nominations do NOT require a second. A board member can nominate more than one candidate although that doesn't make much sense.
  6. When there appear to be no more nominations, the chair says "Do I hear any more nominations? (silence we hope) I now declare the nominations for budget committee closed."
  7. I suggest the chair write the nominated names on a flip chart sheet or on a white board.
  8. The chair now opens discussion and asks for comments in support of the candidates, or any discussion regarding qualifications. I highly recommend that the board avoid negative comments ('If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything'- my grandmother).
  9. The chair now closes the discussion (a board member could make a motion to close discussion, but usually the chair just finesses it and the board goes along at a point where they seem to have said enough). "I will now close the discussion and we will move to a vote.” Each board member may vote for one candidate. A candidate must receive a majority of the board's votes to be appointed. "
    Here is the tricky part. If no one nominee gets a majority of votes on the first round of votes you have to just keep doing rounds of voting until one does. If this goes on too many times, you may have to declare an impasses, and the seats remain vacant. Assuming one nominee does receive a majority vote, then you start the cycle over for the (second) budget committee seat. That should be quicker if there is clearly a second place finisher in the first vote.
  10. Once a candidate has received a majority of votes of the board for the first seat, the board chair should announce that they are the official board appointment for that budget committee seat.
  11. Start again for the second seat back at number 3: "I now declare nominations open for the (second) budget committee seat."
  12. The board secretary records every vote and how each board member voted each time.

Watch out for a couple of 'good ideas': 

  1. "Let's just do this once and the two highest vote getters get the seats." Both appointments must have the vote of a majority of the board to be valid. If you give each board member two votes it gets COMPLICATED to keep track of, and if they stack votes (twice for the same candidate) it is not legal.
  2. "Let's use paper ballots". This can be legal in Oregon IF every board member signs their ballot AND the chair reads the vote and voters name out loud. It is much quicker to just vote by hand or voice. If the board members don't sign their ballots or the chair doesn't read the ballot and name of voter out loud, it is not legal in Oregon.
For more information on this question, Ask Betsy's Team.