Voting at your annual meeting
Constitutionally, the MS Society is a democratic membership organisation.
Groups must invite all members to vote at annual meetings.
You can choose from the following three ways of voting, or use a combination
of the three.
Some groups choose to have a different chair for the election part of the
meeting. The word ‘chair’ below means whoever is chairing the meeting when
you vote on a resolution or committee posts.
1. Postal voting
Groups should use postal voting where practical and appropriate, to ensure
that members have as much opportunity as possible to have a say in
important decisions affecting the group. This is the most equitable voting
method – everybody has the chance to vote.
Members should be informed of their right to use a postal vote at the same
time they are notified of the date, time and venue of the annual meeting. They
should then be asked to request a voting form from the secretary.
At least two weeks before the annual meeting, the secretary must send out
postal voting forms to all members who have requested one.
What do I include on the form?
The form should include full details of all nominations and resolutions and give
a deadline for return – at least two days before the annual meeting. It should
also be anonymous. You can use the template on our website (or ask the
Postal votes must be counted and added to the votes made on the day of the
2. Show of hands
A matter put to a vote at an annual meeting can be decided by a simple
majority, on a show of hands.
The number of votes do not need to be counted or minuted. It should be seen
that there is a clear majority in favour or against the motion put to the meeting.
A member who has also been appointed a proxy to vote on a show of hands
should hold up both hands. He or she should hold the coloured proxy voting
card in one hand.
The chair must decide whether the vote has been passed or not and declare
the result accordingly.
What if the show of hands is too close to call?
In the event that it is not clear to the chair whether a vote has been carried,
someone should be appointed to count the hands raised for a resolution,
against a resolution and any abstentions.
If chair does challenged the Chair has the option to call for
Thethis count isnot have a casting vote at an annual meeting. a secret ballot.
3. Secret ballot (poll)
You may prefer to use a secret ballot (sometimes referred to as a poll) rather
than a show of hands. You may do this on any matter, and are recommended
to use a secret ballot when there are multiple nominations for a committee
post or in sensitive circumstances.
Some groups use a secret ballot for the whole election to avoid the potential
embarrassment of being seen voting against candidates in a show of hands.
The chair may also decide to call a secret ballot where the result of a vote on
a show of hands was not clear.
Members can also request a secret ballot before the result of a vote on a
show of hands is declared or immediately after this takes place. This might
happen if some people think the show of hands vote has been counted
inaccurately or does not fairly represent all those who have sent a proxy.
There must be ten members in favour of this.
If a secret ballot is used in this way, the result must then replace the show of
Ballot papers or ‘ballots’ (sometimes referred to as polling cards) are issued to
those present in person and those appointed as proxies. All ballot papers
should be identical – proxy papers should not be coloured. The voter marks
the piece of paper to indicate how he or she wishes to cast his or her vote.
The voters ‘post’ the cards in a ballot box.
Who should count the votes?
The meeting should appoint two ‘tellers’. They supervise the casting of the
vote and count the result once everyone who wants to vote has done so.
Tellers then pass the result to the chair, who announces the total number of
votes cast, those in favour, those against, and the result.
In the case of a secret ballot for election to the committee, the chair must give
the total number of votes cast, and the number for each candidate, and
declare the person with the greatest number of votes duly elected.
Consulting the whole membership
At any point during an annual meeting the chair can decide that all members
(not just those people attending the meeting) need to be consulted on an
This may be
a resolution tabled at the meeting that could only therefore be voted on
by those at the meeting
an unforeseen, controversial issue
If the chair decides that all members need to be consulted, he or she must
request a postal vote of all members.
In this situation the resolution and supporting statement should be re-
circulated to all members and the results announced at a separate meeting.
All meetings (other than annual meetings) to which the entire branch or
support group membership is invited are known as extraordinary meetings.
Committees can call an extraordinary meeting at any time.
The committee must call an extraordinary meeting if they receive written
requests from one tenth of the membership of the branch or group. Members
must be given at least six weeks’ notice of any extraordinary meeting.
An extraordinary meeting should only be called to deal with a very serious
matter which requires the consultation of the whole membership – such as a
vote of no confidence.
An extraordinary meeting is not the same as an extraordinary committee
meeting (see C3: ‘Committee guidelines and meetings’).
Vote of no confidence
Members of a branch or national support group can call a vote of no
confidence if they feel that they no longer have confidence in either one or
several committee members to carry out their role. Committees facing a vote
of no confidence must notify their local staff member, to ensure they receive
the required support to work through these issues.
To call a vote of no confidence a member and a seconder can submit a
resolution, and a supporting statement clearly stating the reason for the vote,
to any annual or extraordinary meeting of the group. In addition, they must
have the support of one-tenth of the group’s members, whose names and
membership numbers must be listed on the resolution.
The vote of no confidence should then be treated as a standard resolution. A
vote of no confidence must not be called outside an annual or extraordinary
Before the vote is held, the named committee member(s) must be given a
chance to state their case and there must be an opportunity for the resolution
to be amended by a member or a counter resolution proposed and discussed.
The vote must be conducted by secret ballot (see above) and the outcome
should be based on a simple majority. Everybody must abide by the vote