Skip to main content
Co-operatives and elections

Stage 6: Managing the voting process

To ballot or not

In general, if a co-operative has the same number of candidates as there are spaces on the board (following any shortlisting process) then a ballot will not be necessary.

Some co-operatives have rules which require a confirmatory vote at a members’ meeting even if there are only as many candidates as spaces, and the constitution should be followed carefully.

Free and fair elections

Co-operatives of whatever scale should do all they can to ensure a free and fair election, including the use of numbered ballot papers and / or secure electronic voting.

Voting can also take place at in person meetings, depending on the nature of the co-operative; where necessary, members should be asked for identification as they come into the meeting to ensure that voting is not susceptible to outside influence.

For larger organisations, co-operatives should consider the use of outside agencies to implement ballots to give additional reassurance and expertise.

Members should be given a reasonable period in which to cast their votes; two weeks is typical in our experience and allows for most types of absence.

The board should agree the voting mechanism (first past the post or any variation, such as preference votes which can be transferred to other candidates) in advance, and this should again be clearly communicated to candidates and to members.

Reviewing best practice

Co-operatives should consider the voting patterns at previous elections and review best practice in relation to “harder to reach” groups of members.

Where the current board is not diverse in nature, co-operatives should make particular efforts to ensure that members from all groups within the co-operative are actively encouraged to participate.

It is always preferable that elections are contested, and co-operatives should work hard to ensure that this is the case, alongside encouraging members to vote.

It is a requirement of the Code that any uncontested elections are documented in the annual report, along with the efforts made by the board to enhance participation. The Code also expects co-operatives to monitor turnout.