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Co-operatives and elections

Stage 5: Canvassing and elections

Clear communications

The Code states that, as elections approach, “Sufficient information should be given to members to enable them to make an informed decision on their vote, including details of the candidates’ skills, knowledge and experience that lays out why their contribution will be important to the long-term success of the co-operative.”

At the ballot stage, it will be important to review the information provided to members for consistency.

If candidate information is to be provided, there should be a word limit and guidance given to candidates on what information members will expect. Given the importance of the board to a co-operative, members should be given every encouragement to vote.

Election canvassing – code of conduct

The Governance Panel has prepared a Canvassing Code of Conduct. Each co-operative will have its own views on whether or not canvassing is appropriate.

In smaller housing organisations, concerns have been expressed about canvassing putting pressure on residents to vote in a particular way.

In larger consumer co-operatives, canvassing is not uncommon.

If canvassing is to be allowed, then the guidance makes it clear that having a canvassing code of conduct (which candidates are asked to sign) is helpful. In particular, there should be clear expectations of any written material produced, which should be limited in scope and not contain any inaccuracies or critical statements about other candidates.

The Code expects co-operatives to ensure that “elections, including canvassing activity, are fair and transparent and free from fraud and undue influence”.