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OA Unit Elections

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Dear List,


I know this is going to be a repeat of a topic discussed several times, but the few answers I found do not quote any chapter and verse.


I have a very small troop - 4 active boys (out of 5 on the charter). They are all eligible for OA, and I'm planning on having the election this coming Thursday. My CC, who's the OA Vice-Chief Advisor (think I have that title right) is not aware of the recent election changes. Neither is our Chapter Advisor (great guy, but I think he's still using the procedures from 1963).


My understanding is - to be elected, you need to be selected on 50% of the ballots. If all 4 boys (or 3, one said he wants to wait until next year - decision always subject to change, of course) vote for each other (or any other combination that results in each boy being on 50%, or 2, of the ballots), then ALL elected go in, right?


I was told the Chapt. Adv. said that a max. of 50% of the ELEGIBLE Scouts can be sent to ordeal - so if all are elected, we'd have to decide which 2 (50% of the 4) get to go this time around.


Can someone please quote me a reference in the Units and Elections Guide (along with a version # or print date) that can help set the record straight?


I'm not looking to prove them wrong out of spite, just want to make sure all the boys that want membership if they so choose get that opportunity. And a little education now and then never hurt anybody, either. :-)





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To the best of my knowledge, you are correct. It is theoretically possible for all the eligibles on your ballot to be elected, and all duly electected candidates can go to an ordeal. I suppose the liklihood of this is greater in such a small troop. I have yet to see it happen in any election which I have observed.

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Each scout at the election may vote for any number of the canidates and any one whose name is is on half the ballots is elected.

In your case if you have four scouts at the election anyone who gets two votes is in.

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Most lodges have two or more ordeals each year, my lodge has three in the fall and one or two in the spring, even if the requirements states that only half the boys in the troop may attend an ordeal, I can see the reasoning behind this. Also depending on if this rule is a national or lodge regulation you could most likely simply convince the advisor or chief to allow all the boys to attend, considering that you have such a small troop, and just keep them relatively separated from one another.

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Thank you all for the replies, but does anybody have access to the Unit Elections Guide that could point to a page #? If not, I'll have to go the "long" way and track down the password to download it from the website.


New Question: As somebody mentioned, can a lodge rule supercede a National OA rule as to how many can attend ordeal?


Thanks again,



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Another option for a youth voter is to "abstain." This is different than just not voting. For instance, if one of your four boys presents wants to abstain, only three ballots are used, two votes still gets you chosen as a candidate.


Now I've seen the opposite problem happen recently. I helped my son monitor another troop's OA election recently. The troop was fairly large and 33 boys were present to vote that evening. One youth was at his second meeting (newbie) so he decided to abstain from voting. Therefore, 16 votes got one elected (assuming SM approval). Now the problem was that they had about 13 boys eligible. They gave out blank slips of paper for the boys to write out the names. Now almost all of the boys wrote down 4 - 6 names. None of the boys had the patience to write down more than that. So only one boy got enough votes although the SM told me that in his estimation most were very deserving. A boy was assigned to deliver pre-made ballots to the meeting but he did not show up. Live and learn.(This message has been edited by acco40)

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I cannot imagine that a lodge can create a rule that overrides a national policy. I can however imagine a situation where attendance at an ordeal might be restricted because of limitations of the facilities. Most lodges offer multiple ordeals during the year. Even if a lodge had to limit attendance because of facility problems, hopefully that lodge would offer enough other opportunities to candidates to participate in a different ordeal within the required time frame.

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I think I can probably give you the correct answer here. I was once my chapter's unit elections chairman, and then later the same for the lodge. I also went on to work my way up to Lodge Chief. So I know a little about this. I have also attended a bit of training on the subject at the National Order of the Arrow Conference.


There is no "unit elections guide" produced nationally. There could be a lodge version of such a thing. However, there are two documents produced by the National Order of the Arrow Committee that do relate to unit elections, those being the Order of the Arrow Guide for Officers and Advisers, and the Guide to Inductions.


I must ask you to clarify one statement.

"I was told the Chapt. Adv. said that a max. of 50% of the ELEGIBLE Scouts can be sent to ordeal - so if all are elected, we'd have to decide which 2 (50% of the 4) get to go this time around." - Gags

Was he saying that only 50% may attend a specific Ordeal? or that only 50% may attend the Ordeal, period?

Also, are there multiple opportunities available to attend the Ordeal? What I am trying to determine is if this rule actually limits the number per unit inducted each year, or if it limits the number attending a specific event.



I think it would be best to first set out the qualifications for election, and the procedures for elections, before getting into this too deeply. I want to make certain there is no misunderstanding about this. This is not the complete text of the requirements, nor the complete election procedure. Do not attempt to hold an election based only on this information. The following is taken taken, directly or indirectly, from the Order of the Arrow Guide for Officers and Advisers, 2002 edition, #34997B :


"Unit leader approval. To be eligible for election a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout must be registered with the Boy Scouts of America and have the approval of his unit leader prior to the election. The unit leader must certify Scout spirit (i.e. his adherence to Scout Oath & Law, and active participation in unit activities). The unit leader must also certify that the nominee meets all specified requirements at the time of this annual election."


Youth membership qualifications.

* "Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America."

* "Hold the First Class rank of the Boy Scouts of America, as a minimum."

* "After registration with a troop or team, have experienced 15 days and nights of Boy Scout camping during the two-year period prior to the election. The 15 days and nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of six consecutive days and five nights of resident camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. The balance of the camping must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps."


"Election of any person under 21 years of age as a candidate for membership shall be based on fulfillment of the youth membership requirements."


Guide for Officers and Advisers, page 20, Membership Requirements


"In Boy Scout troops and Varsity Scout teams, every registered active member of the unit under age 21 at the time of election is eligible to vote."


Guide for Officer and Advisers, page 21, Election Procedures


Unit Elections Procedures.

1. The lodge determines the time of year for election and informs the unit leaders in advance by mail.

2. Hold the election at the time and place determined by the unit leader, and have Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts assembled with their unit leader ready to elect candidates. The Order should be represented by a two- or three-member team from the lodge or chapter elections committee.

3. Before the election, the OA team must secure from the unit leader verification that at least 50 percent of the registered active unit membership is present. If at least 50% is not present, an election cannot be held. If the unit leader is an Arrowman, he may explain to the group the purpose of the Order of the Arrow and the basis upon which candidates should be selected, and describe the method of election. If the unit leader is not a member of the Order, a member of the OA team should make this presentation with the unit leader's consent, demonstrating that election leadership is a cooperative effort of the unit leader and the OA team.

4. The unit leader provides a list of all registered active members of the unit who meet all eligibility requirements, including attitude and participation.

5. The election team leader explains the following to the unit leader:

* This is the current method of election.

* All eligible youths who receive votes from at least 50 percent of those who turn in ballots are elected. If no one is elected a second vote may be held immediately, and the result of this vote will be final.

6. A voter may list on his ballot any combination of names, including all eligible candidates who he believes are worth to become members of the Order of the Arrow.


There is additional information on the basis for election, as well as additional procedural matters, and some information purely for the elections team. Those sections do not seem pertinent to the discussion at hand.



Now that we all have a better understanding of the elections process (I hope) let me share the only reference out of the combined 124 pages of these guides that directly limits the number of participants in an activity:


"it is the policy of the national Order of the Arrow committee that not more than 50 candidates participate in a single ceremony."

Guide to Inductions, page 37, Planning the Ordeal

2002 printing


This is the one and only reference that I have found in any current publications of the Order that would require that a lodge must limit participation. However, this is not a limit on the number attending the Ordeal. It is possible to keep the number per ceremony bellow 50 and yet have more than 50 candidates at an event. However, it may be that the Ordeal planning team has decided to only hold one ceremony per Ordeal. It is also possible there are other issues involved that I am unaware of (such as number of available Arrowmen to assist in the Ordeal, facilities limitations, or other local conditions).


I would argue that the 50% per unit rule is not in the best interests of the Order. It does not, from my point of view, provide for an affective means of limiting the total number per ceremony, nor does it directly support the purposes of the Order or the induction principles. I would suggest that if it is necessary to limit the number attending for some reason, that the best mechanism to use would be to place a limit on the number who may attend. Then have a first come first served based registration system (obviously advance registration would be needed to provide notice to the candidates who are unable to attend that event).


It is vital that all candidates have the opportunity to attend the Ordeal within one year of election. It is the duty of the lodge and chapter to provide this opportunity. (Note; this does not mean that an Ordeal convenient to each candidate's personal schedule must be offered.)


If the 50% per unit rule you quoted is being used to in any way limit the number of youth per unit who are allowed to complete the Ordeal, then it is contradicting the policy of the Order.


"No lodge rule, policy, or procedure may deviate from or change in any manner a requirement in the current printing of any of the Order's literature."

Guide for Officers and Advisers, page 20, Lodge Rules


If you, or anyone else, has any questions or comments about this, or any other OA related issue, I will be happy to assist as best I can, taking into account the nature of this forum and my limited knowledge of the local situation.

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Proud Eagle,


I'm quite sure he was saying the only 50% may attend, period. If there were more than 50% elected, we would have to determine who would go by vote count.


While I think we have the largest lodge in the country, the Chapter area covers mostly urban neighborhoods and is poorly represented. I'm pretty certain that the location usually used does not limit the ordeal size, b/c I doubt they initiate more than 30 members per year. They may have 2 ordeals, but nothing was mentioned about "waiting till next fall".


I think you've provided the exact answer I was looking for - especially the 2002 printing. I would bet that earlier printings did not have the same procedures, in particular the "all scouts on 50% of ballots are elected". If you have any inclination to research further, do you know with what printing this new election procedure was implemented?


Thank you again for the detailed answer - this is a great help and I'm relieved that all the boys who want to join will now be able to.





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I don't really know for certain when the election procedure was changed. The only copy of the Guide for Officers and Advisers I have on hand at the moment is the 2002 version. I believe that the policy has been in effect since at least 1999.


If I were you I would encourage the advisers, officers, and chairmen involved to read the Guide for Officers and Advisers. I would point out the following sections in particular:


The last sentence of the first paragraph on page 20.


The entire section titled "Unit Election Procedures" on page 22 and 23, paying special attention to the fifth section, which is found at the top of the first column on page 23.


It sounds like your chapter adviser is seriously off the reservation, so to speak. It may be useful to contact the Chapter Chief, or the Unit Elections Chairman, to find out if the procedure being used is the correct one, or the chapter advisor's procedure. I would certainly contact the Lodge Adviser as soon as possible and discuss the issue. Having a Chapter Adviser that is incorrect about such an important procedure is something that should be brought to the attention of the Lodge Adviser.


If that is does not produce results, try contacting the Lodge Staff Adviser. Finally, if all else fails, the council Scout executive, acting as the Supreme Chief of the Fire, has the authority to straiten the mess out if no one else will.


Also, if you know any youth that are officers they may be able to pursue the matter independently, though that could put them in an awkward position. I know if something like this had come up while I was Lodge Chief it certainly would have gotten a response from me.


I certainly hope this gets worked out. Having even a single chapter carrying out elections in such a blatantly incorrect way is not a good thing for the Order.

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