Many times, difficult situations lead to innovative solutions. COVID-19 has given lodges across the country the tough decision of whether to postpone Lodge Officer Elections or to hold them virtually. If local restrictions preclude in-person gatherings, the following guidelines are provided to enable a virtual lodge election to be conducted.
How to Get People There
It is beneficial to maintain the same date for the election that you otherwise would have had to minimize confusion. Plan some sort of draw in besides the elections (e.g., O-Shot-Caw lodge had a lodge rededication ceremony that lasted about 20 minutes). You may also have lodge trivia on Kahoot or another activity that can easily be performed via a videoconferencing service. An additional benefit of having a program before the election is that it gives the administration team time to check the dues status of each member on the call.
Determining Dues Status of Members
The first challenge you will encounter is how to determine who on the call is a dues-paid youth and who is an adult. To solve this, you may have everyone turn on their cameras and give instructions to include “youth” or “adult” in their name on the Zoom call. For example, a voting member would be “Johnny Arrowman – Youth,” whereas an adult would be “Johnny Arrowman – Adult.” This will help you gauge how many youth are on the call. As the election takes place, your Membership Team can check every youth’s name with Lodgemaster to ensure they are a dues paid youth in the lodge. This audit system will allow you to ensure that only youth are voting while protecting the privacy of their vote. If a youth has not paid dues, it is up to you if you would like to let them vote with the stipulation of paying within the week or simply not let them vote. In the experiences of lodges so far, the vast majority of people who had not initially paid dues who were allowed to vote, did pay their dues in a timely manner.
Conducting the Election
Conduct the election as you normally would: accepting nominations from the floor, accepting petitions electronically before the election, etc., then allowing them to speak for the standard amount of time in your lodge. You may also allow for runoffs with additional speeches if your lodge leadership elects to do so. Once all nominees finish speaking, the voting link and password (if applicable) should be sent in the Zoom (or other video conferencing software) chat. We recommend allowing 2-3 minutes for voting, and once the results are collected, a photo of the results can be sent to the Adult Lodge Adviser, for authentication purposes, who will then let the Lodge Chief know the result. This allows the specific results of the election to only be seen by adult advisers but gives the Lodge Chief the opportunity to announce the results. However, if your lodge utilizes chapter caucuses, you may choose to create breakout rooms to which you can assign specific members. Five to seven minutes should be adequate time for a chapter caucus. If your lodge typically verbally announces votes by chapter rather than by ballot, we encourage you to do that as well.
We recommend utilizing your video conferencing service to hold the election itself but tally the votes via a polling platform. There are several polling platforms available that could accomplish this such as Google Surveys, Survey Monkey, and Zoom which has the ability to vote within the platform if you have a paid account. Research each of these platforms to find the best fit for your lodge.
The more changes that are introduced to the election procedure, the more confused your members are likely to become. Maintain as much of a sense of normalcy as possible while conducting your virtual elections.