Introducing: The NEW Officer Election Ballot
The typical choir officer election is usually a waste of many rehearsals and usually results in an ineffective, dysfunctional board of officers. A balloted officer election is far more effective but it is still significantly flawed.
If we choose officers by election, the most popular students are usually chosen; most popular has no correlation with character, motivation, talent, or follow-through. It also doesn’t correlate one’s ability to equally reflect and communicate both the need of the choir and the needs of the director.
If we choose officers on our own, we miss an important key component: the voice of the ensemble. Our choir members not only have opinions and personal backstories regarding their peers, these views impact how they will respond to those potential officers, should they be selected.
If our goal is to have the both deserving and effective officers who are respected by the choir, I suggest using a Qualitative Election Ballot.
Here are the two main foundational principals to creating/using a Qualitative Election Ballot:
- The ballot needs to be constructed in a way that allows students to give important input
- We must use this qualitative student input to determine the best choices for officers
First, let’s understand that requiring students to put down their “vote” on a paper ballot means they can’t visually be swayed by other students in the room. While a paper vote is a good first step, it isn’t enough to ensure the right candidates are chosen.
Remember that WE are the ones that will be working directly with these officers. They represent us just as much as they represent the choir. We dictate what they have the power to do, what decisions they can make, and how they can handle specific situations.
How a Qualitative Election Ballot is different than a regular ballot?
A qualitative ballot offers the insight of our members, not just a numeric voting tally. A ballot when created and utilized effectively will offer:
1. The ability to sort/separate the completed ballots up by section/grade (or any other important way) in order to understand the support for a particular candidate
If we are choosing section leaders, it’s important to know how the specific section feels about a particular candidate. A great singer who appears to step up may not be respected by their peers because they put others down; we may not inherently recognize this behavior, but these students can end up hurting their section more than they help. In addition, it’s important to differentiate how a candidate’s contemporaries feel versus the younger, more impressionable students.
2. The ability for members to support ALL candidates that they believe are capable and deserving of leadership
When students have to choose between candidates, they may resort to a the most popular students. When we allow them to think through each student and whether they independently have what it takes to fulfill a type of leadership role, they will be able to give support to all deserving members. I don’t believe in limiting votes; a choir member can theoretically check-off every candidate for every category on their ballot.
3. The ability to recognize each candidate’s general strengths
Section leaders have a completely different role in a choir than the Robes Leader, the President/Manager or the Treasurer. By offering separate categories to differentiate these types of skills, we can truly grasp where a candidate would be best suited. The choral clarity ballot separates musical skills, leadership skills, and dedication.
Choir Officer Application – train your students to become leaders BEFORE they become leaders
4. The option for members to say more
Even a qualitative ballot in some way becomes quantitative because we can still tally up the number of “votes” each candidate has received in each category. By allowing a column for students to add their own words, we have a little more detail about how they feel. They might write comments next to a candidate such as “a true role model”, “super talented”, “always talks behind people’s backs” or “doesn’t have the respect of their section”. If your wish is to only hear positive comments, you can add that additional specification.
5. The option for members to remain anonymous or to pen their name
Some students don’t want their decisions to be known while others want us to know exactly what they think and feel about future officers. Students who pen their name have stepped up and also provided us with additional qualitative input to use in our decision-making process. For example, if the potential President/Manager of our choir, who penned their name on their ballot, feels strongly about another potential leader, they will likely work well together. Additionally, should they pen their name, we could choose to follow-up with that student and ask them to explain their viewpoint further.
Yes, it is more work for us to read through these ballots than it is to have an in-class election. But this process will allow for consistently deserving, well-chosen, and effective leaders year after year. Choral programs with true role models as leaders will continuously thrive as the current leaders will always set the example for the next group of aspiring leaders.
I have modified my ballot many times over the years, especially as my program has evolved and my needs for leadership has changed. Here is a link to my fully editable officer ballot that you can download for free (for a limited time).
Lastly, I believe strongly in an application process, which also requires the candidates to submit a resume, cover letter, have an interview, and give a speech in front of the choir. The ballot is the final step to the entire decision-making process, but even on it’s own, it will significantly improve the effectiveness of our officer selections!