What is the Union Election Process?

Published 11/25/2020 by YesElections

As your union’s election official, your job is to run an impartial, fair election that complies with federal law, the union’s constitution and its bylaws. While elections can be overwhelming, YesElections has developed this explainer to help you navigate this process. 

Here are the basics: 

  • Before beginning the planning process, it’s critical you read the Conducting Local Union Officer Elections guide for election officers created by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). This comprehensive document contains everything you’ll need to know about complying with federal requirements when conducting elections. 
  • The OLMS has also developed a complementary Checklist for Conducting Local Union Officer Elections, which acts as a shortened version of the guide. 
  • Another resource you should familiarize yourself with is the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), which set the standards for union elections. YesElections recently wrote a blog Deciphering the LMRDA For Online Elections to help election officials understand how the act relates to digital voting, among the most popular forms of voting. 
  • It’s also helpful to review your union’s constitution and bylaws regarding elections, as well as any material from past elections. 

Once that’s done, you should have a general understanding of the election laws and requirements. Now it’s time to begin planning. 


Plan & Schedule the Election

The first step is to gather your fellow officials together to discuss and divide responsibilities, so the long list of tasks seems less daunting. You’ll then want to settle on where and when you’ll hold the election, which will likely be dictated by the voting method—by phone, mail, online, in person, or a combination of the four. If you’re interested in using a polling place, you must select and rent out the location and establish voting hours. If you’re using mail, determine when, where, and by whom the packages will be prepared by. Develop a detailed plan that includes important dates for the election. If you’re looking for help with that, the OLMS has created an election planner all officials can use to make documenting the process easier.

Download our free resource: The Ultimate Election Checklist.



This is important: Union funds may only be used to pay for election-related expenses, such as nomination and election notices or election management agency services. However, they cannot be allocated to promote candidates. Before you make commitments, conduct preliminary research to determine the cost of the election. The total price may include postage, poll observers, software, and promotional materials such as pamphlets or brochures. If you engage an election management agency, you’ll want to factor in that cost as well. However, utilizing this service can take care of several aforementioned costs.



Step one of the nomination process involves posting or mailing the nomination notice 10 days prior to the nomination meeting, as well as deciding the deadline for receipt of written nominations. Best practices dictate that you schedule the nomination meeting four to six weeks before the election, and the date for receipt of each candidate’s nomination acceptance the week after the nomination meeting. Candidate eligibility will need to be verified, with notifications then sent to nominees. Election officials must also determine if nominations will be chosen by petition, nominators, or a nominating committee. Finally, election officials must decide which nominees are eligible to become candidates. 


Candidate Campaigning

Candidates can now begin campaigning! It’s important election officials remain impartial and develop a list of campaign rules. Schedule a meeting to inform all candidates of the regulations and election procedures, and to answer any questions. Depending on your union’s bylaws, election officials should determine how to handle requests from candidates to distribute campaign literature. To ensure all candidates receive equal treatment, officials should notify everyone of the rules. Another procedure election officials must determine and inform candidates of is the inspection of the membership list. Leading up to the election, it’s also your job to remind members of the scheduled date and the importance of voting.



All of this preparation and campaigning culminates on election day when your responsibilities boil down to one major task: ensuring a fair and honest election. Officials must ensure all ballots remain secret and prohibit campaigning in the polling area. They are precluded from wearing any type of material that endorses a particular candidate. When voters arrive, election officials should ask for identification, check their eligibility status, and mark their name off the voting list. The OLMS created a polling place diagram to fully help you understand what tasks must be handled and where to stand during election day. The purpose of each location is to ensure that all activity may be carefully observed. 



Prior to the election, officials should agree how and who will tabulate the results. The officials can count the ballots themselves, have a fellow union member total them, or arrange for an outside vendor to tally them. Of course, hiring a third-party with no association to the union to tabulate results provides an additional layer of protection from bias and fraud. 


YesElections can simplify and streamline the process for union election officials. We will handle the entire voting process, from nominations to the calculation of results, so you have less to worry about. With extensive knowledge of union election laws and regulations, YesElections can help you plan and organize an online, phone, mail, in-person, or multiple voting method election. Learn more about our Union Election Services, or Contact us today to request a complimentary consultation.

Topics: Union Elections

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