If you’ve attended any number of meetings or conventions where elections are taking
place, you may have heard someone say, "Comrade Soandso is elected by acclamation!” At
which point, everyone claps vigorously, and Susie Soandso gives an acceptance speech that is, of
course, several minutes longer than necessary.
During Susie’s’ speech, you may be thinking, (a) Susie just joined the VFW last year.
How did she 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, here you go.
"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 [RONR (12th) 46:40]. Because there’s only one candidate and no
other options, there’s no need to say, "All those in favor of Susie Soandso, say ‘aye.’ All those
opposed, say, ‘no.’” Instead, the group can simply declare – by enthusiastic approval – that Susie
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 presiding officer does have to make sure that in fact only one
person has been nominated. And they 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 Secret or Written
Before you get too excited about saving time at your next election and electing everyone
by acclamation, check your bylaws. If the bylaws require elections to take place by secret or
written ballot, you cannot elect by acclamation. Electing by acclamation is a form of voice vote,
and if the bylaws say, "Secret (or written) Ballot vote required for elections,” then you must use
secret or written ballots and save the vigorous clapping for another day. Hint: VFW National
bylaws do not require a secret or written ballot vote in most cases [National Bylaws and Manual
of Procedures 217, 417, 517 & 617].
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 procedures pro
(and seriously, 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 Susie Soandso or for Roger Ready. 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
Here are the takeaways. Election by acclamation is a good thing. Use it when your
bylaws don’t require a secret or written ballot vote and when only one person is nominated for
office. And by all means . . . clap loudly and make Susie Soandso’s day!
For more useful Parliamentary Rules information you can visit the VFW Parliamentary
Procedures and Learning group on Facebook.
Veterans of Foreign Wars