Ask the Chairman - A Popularity Contest

Q. How do you keep the elections from being a popularity contest? Some scouts who meet the requirements and definitely have the qualities of a true Boy Scout are not elected. They meet the qualifications year after year. Even the other Scouts are surprised certain Scouts are never elected.

A. What a great question...let me start by suggesting that the unit elections chair from the local lodge or chapter might be invited to come and talk to the boys about the Order of the Arrow, rather than relying solely on the OA Elections DVD. Nationally, many of our most successful chapters and lodges have noticed that this practice, especially when the Scoutmaster is also invited to comment, makes those in the troop recognize the founding ideals of the OA and helps to take away consideration on other variables.

In May 2008 the Order of the Arrow distributed an Operations Update (page 3, Unit Elections) in which Tom Reddin, a 25 year veteran of the Order of the Arrow Committee, wrote beautifully in addressing this problem. This has been used effectively in a number of troops around the country. Let me quote from Tom’s insightful essay, to address your question, further:

Electing candidates from medium to large size troops and teams can be a challenge. The basic problem is that many Scouts, especially the older ones, don’t really know the younger Scouts and are reluctant to vote for them. This can be a significant problem especially with youth who are quiet and introverted.

Noticing their low election results, a number of Scoutmasters have developed a procedure to directly address this situation. It has produced significant improvements in the election results in these units. Some Scoutmasters announce the youth’s rank, number of nights of camping, and service hours as the names are read. Others include similar information on the ballot of names. Another technique is to print the individual Scouting record of each candidate, listing his name, grade, rank, number of merit badges, summer camp years, camping nights, leadership positions held, and special awards or events attended. Regardless of the procedure used, the purpose of this is to help the unit members know something about the candidates before they vote. It works and produces much better election results.

The Scoutmaster still decides the names to appear on the ballot, listing only those who have demonstrated Scout spirit and who meet the OA eligibility requirements. A Scout whose name is being withheld because of Scout spirit needs to be told why in advance. Also, some Scouts may not be interested in becoming OA members. The Scoutmaster should offer the eligible candidates the opportunity to "opt out" of being on the annual ballot prior to its printing.

This procedure has been tried and tested. It produces 50 to 100% better election results and is worthy of your consideration.

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