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Ask the Chairman - Scouts with Special Needs and Elections

        Ask the Chairman

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Q: Mike,

There is a Scout with special needs in my troop that dearly wants to be in the Order of the Arrow. He tries his hardest for the boys, but the other boys in the troop have made the OA elections a popularity contest. I know that there is no give with the elections; do you have any guidance on what to do in a situation like that? Thanks.  



A: Hi Blake,

Thank you for your question. Past National OA Chairman Ray Capp has previously addressed the topics of Scouts with special needs and with elections becoming a popularity contest. I have some thoughts that may also help. Noticing their dissatisfactory 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. The following techniques have been used effectively in a number of units around the country:

  • Some Scoutmasters announce a youth’s rank, number of nights of camping, and service hours as the names on the ballot are read. Others include similar information on the actual ballot.

  • 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 for election 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. I hope this offers you an idea for improving the election results.  Keep me posted if I might help more.  

I hope this helps! Thanks for doing what you do!