Troop Elections… With a Twist


The Scouts elect their own Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol Leader. This is a learning experience in practical democracy. In addition to the newly-elected leaders learning how to lead, the electors learn that just winning the most votes doesn’t make someone a good leader yet. Or ever. And even if all the candidates are equally capable (or equally raw material), how do you help Scouts make satisfying choices?

Let’s say you have eight Scouts. They can vote for anybody for one position. Scout A gets 3 votes, Scout B gets 2 votes, Scout C gets 2 votes, and Scout D gets 1 vote. Scout A is elected, right? That’s how most of us conduct an election. But does Scout A have any kind of mandate to lead, or is he just minimally more popular than Scout B? After all, fewer than half the Scouts voted for him.

When I was last a Scoutmaster, I had my Scouts put two names on their ballots for each office. These were not ranked; each Scout just had two votes. What I found was that the Scouts would use one vote to pay compliments to their friends or promote themselves, and the other vote expressed their actual assessment of who would do a good job.

Take the case, above. If two ballots are cast by each of eight Scouts, then let’s say that Scout A gets 8 votes, Scout B gets 5 votes, Scout C gets 2 votes, and Scout D gets 1 vote. A much clearer expression of the will of the majority emerges, also one which reflects the Scouts’ actual impression of the candidate’s capability.

In a troop voting for SPL, this might not be as big a deal, though in the small troop it might be very helpful. Certainly, in the more intimate election of Patrol Leaders, this could be helpful in any troop.

We would like to thank our guest writer Art Collins for contributing this valuable insight.

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About the author . . .

Art Collins has been in Scouting, man and boy, for over fifty years. He has led many different units and many different programs. As an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church, he has fostered Scouting as ministry in local congregations, as well as at the Conference and General Church level. His current Scouting position is as the International Representative for Hoosier Trails Council and as a member of the Council Executive Board. His current ministry position is Retired.