How to Take a Vote in 5 Easy StepsChairing a meeting is harder than it looks. And at times parliamentary procedure doesn’t make that job any easier. Keeping track of what motion is on the floor and who to recognize next is tough. Taking a vote the proper way might seem like a luxury.

Well, as a professional, I’m here to tell you it’s not. Following a pattern and using consistent language to take a vote can do wonders to move your meeting along. Here’s a tried-and-true method.

Voting Step 1: Tell members that it’s time to vote.

Once discussion is over, give the members a heads-up that it’s voting time.

Say this: “There is no further discussion. We will now take a vote.”

Voting Step 2: Tell members what motion they’re voting on.

This is a necessary but often-skipped step. I know you think that members are so entranced by the floor debate and your flawless leadership skills that they know precisely what motion is on the floor for a vote. Let me tell you—they may be looking at you, but they’re thinking about their fantasy football team, not the meeting. So, help everyone out and remind members what they’re voting on before you ask them to vote.

Say this: “The motion on the floor is that we hold a bake sale on January 31 to raise funds for the local homeless shelter.” OR “We are voting on the following motion: that we hold a bake sale on January 31 to raise funds for the local homeless shelter.”

Voting Step 3: Ask members who is in favor of the motion and who is opposed.

You’ve told everyone it’s time to vote and what they’re voting on. Now, ask them to vote.

Say this: “All those in favor, say ‘aye.’ All those opposed, say, ‘no.’” OR “All those in favor, please rise. Be seated. All those opposed, please rise. Be seated.”

(P.S. Read my earlier post to make sure you don’t screw up this step.)

Voting Step 4: Announce the results of the vote.

Tell members who won.

Say this: “The ‘ayes’ have it, and the motion is adopted.” OR “The ‘nos’ have it, and the motion is not adopted.”

Voting Step 5: Announce the effect of the vote.

This step just clarifies what will happen as a result of the vote. All you have to do is tell people whether you will or won’t be doing what the motion said.

Say this: “We will hold a bake sale on January 31 to raise funds for the local homeless shelter.”

Maybe you read these steps and think, overkill—as in, this will take forever and complicate life.

Well, before you write it off, can you just give it a try? Obviously, it’s more words than just saying, “Ok, let’s vote. Who’s in favor? Awesome. Let’s have a bake sale.” But I promise, the extra words are worth it because they keep everyone on the same page, saving you the trouble of getting everyone caught up, especially the guy who was thinking about his fantasy football team. And the consistency of the wording sets your members at ease because they know what to expect. Process helps everyone.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Robert’s Rules says when something’s official, it needs to be official. Which means, the tellers report—we’re talking about the on-paper vote count—can’t just exist on the back of a spare copy of the agenda because you couldn’t find anything else to write on.

The tellers report is . . . (drumroll) . . . an official, organized report that goes in the minutes. I’ve talked in recent posts about how to count ballots. Today, I’m going to help you with how to collect that information and place it in a formal report that you can share with the members.

Step 1: Determine the number of votes cast.

Step 2: Identify any illegal votes.

Step 3: Count the ballots marked for each candidate or position.

Step 4: Fill out the tellers report.

There are four categories of information on a tellers report:

  • number of votes cast
  • number of votes necessary for election
  • number of votes received by each candidate or position
  • number of illegal votes and the reason(s) they are illegal

And, before we go any further, here’s some clarification: The number of votes necessary for election is more than half of the votes cast for a specific candidate or position (unless your bylaws say otherwise, of course).

So, let’s say you just held an election for president and vice-president, with both offices listed on the same ballot. Here’s what your tellers report should look like:

Number of votes cast 51
Necessary for election (majority) 26
Perfect Patty 30
Loser Larry 3
Mediocre Matt 15
Illegal Votes
Wanda Wannabe (disqualified and ineligible) 2
Two ballots folded together for Mediocre Matt 1


Number of votes cast 56
Necessary for election (majority) 29
Sam Second String 14
Chad Champion 33
Greta Good Sport 6
Illegal Votes
Illegible write-in votes 3


Two things to note here: The number of votes cast is specific to a candidate or position. Just because members vote for several offices on one ballot doesn’t mean that the number of votes cast is the same for each office. Members might vote for vice-president but not president.

And, the report shouldn’t include the number of members eligible to vote or the number of members abstaining.

Step 5: Give the report to the chairman.

One final word. Tellers don’t announce who won. The chairman does.

I get that you’re excited about the utter greatness of your tellers report, but don’t go running into the meeting room and spill the beans about who won. In parliamentary procedure, the announcement, like everything, is a specific process.

  • You tell the chairman that you’re ready to read the report.
  • On her cue, you read the report out loud to the group and then hand the report to the chairman. (Remember, the report doesn’t say who won. It just says the number of votes for each candidate.)
  • The chairman will then re-read the report out loud and end it by declaring the winner for each office.