Home » Member Resources » Divisions » Elections » Steward Election Procedures

Steward Election Procedures


An historical axiom of trade unionism is “The shop elects its own steward(s).” For a union to be most effective in serving its membership, easy access to a steward familiar with their local problems is a necessity.

Therefore, divisions which encompass more than one work location and/or agency code must define steward election constituencies. Different groups must be segregated from each other, so that local self-identity and representation is preserved.

Most common are geographic constituencies, where work location is the determining factor. Sub-Division by building site(s) or region(s) are typical. Divisions, which have small local or satellite offices over a large geographic area, should cluster them into single steward constituency groups.

Article IV., Section 15.’s reference to a steward ratio of one per 50 PS&T (not PEF members) is the maximum number a steward should have to serve. Therefore, 1 per 50 should be used for Divisions with a single work location.

Flexibility exists if the Division can justify it. For multiple location or agency code Divisions the 1 per 50 basis should be used for each constituency. Therefore, the number of allocated stewards can exceed that which would be expected if the Division’s PS&T total was divided by 50. Field locations of 20 to 50 should have their own stewards. Further, a ratio lower than 1 per 20 can be used for those parts of a Division with many small community locations by grouping them together either functionally or geographically.

The key to defining constituencies should be maximizing for the best and most broad based steward representation possible, which provides adequate service. It should follow “natural” boundaries, either departmental or geographic, and not be overly constrained by minimizing the representation to an arbitrary 1 per 50 ratio.

PEF can provide the Division Election Committee with separate constituency listings and mailing sets for elections, when constituencies by agency code(s) and/or PEF region(s) (or combinations thereof) are appropriate. When other constituency bases are used, the ballot instructions and voter work location designation on the return envelope are used.

Term of Office

The term of office and commencement date for all stewards and Division Officers in Article V, Section 4, of their Division Constitution. As the 1981 guidelines allowed any length from one (1) to three (3) years, and any starting date, reference must be made to your own constitution. We prefer to use the 1st of the month for record keeping purposes. Copies of your Division’s Constitution may be obtained from PEF’s Divisions Director, if they are not available locally.

Note: A Steward and/or Division Officer is elected for a specific length of time to serve a specific constituency. Only resignation, recall by the electing constituency, or leaving the membership of the constituency which elected him/her can end that term of office before its expiration date.

The Division Council shall select the Election Committee. The Division Council in consultation with the appropriate Regional Coordinator(s) shall:

Determine the appropriate steward constituencies, provided this apportionment does not exceed the number allowed for this division. Unless changed by PEF or the Divisions Committee, the interdepartmental steward allocation shall be based on one (1) steward per fifty (50) PS&T unit members. No candidate for election shall serve on the Election Committee. (see Article IV, Section 15 and Article V, Sections 1 and 2).

Election packets containing the official forms needed to conduct the nomination and balloting process are obtained by contacting the Divisions Department. The Election Committee must confer with the appropriate Regional Coordinator(s) and devise a copy of the election notice, petition and sample ballot, if necessary. These forms must then be forwarded to the Divisions Director.

Mailing labels for sending out nominating petitions and ballots will become available once a verified membership list is received by the Divisions Department from the Division Council identifying the members in each of the constituencies as defined by the Division Council. This membership list becomes the official list to be used for verifying petitions and mailing ballots. Notice, petition, and sample ballot must be filed with the Divisions Department prior to receiving mailing labels.

A notice, announcing the election must be distributed by mail, with the nominating petition, in such a way as to ensure that all members are aware of an election. A nominating petition should appear on the back of the announcement and must require signature of candidate. Agency fee payers should get notice with a membership application card stating they are not members and if they wish to vote in the election, they should sign and return the application.

I. Nomination Petition Preparation

The announcement shall state:

1. Reason for the election:

a. Regular Election

b. Vacancy in one (1) or more positions.

2. Term of office (must specify two of the following):

a. Length of Term

b. Start of Term

c. End of Term

3. Election Committee Member

a. Chairperson name, address and phone number

b. Committee member’s name, address and phone number

4. Division Name and Number

5. Who is eligible and what Constituencies

a. The Division’s Nominations and Elections Committee must establish and implement uniform procedures regarding enfranchisement of members appearing to be in the election constituency but not on the constituency printout. If the questioned constituent is enfranchised, it must be conditioned upon his/her being switched into the appropriate constituency on PEF records.

b. Multiple site divisions must segregate constituencies for elections wherever practical. (Refer to sections relating to Constituencies and Ballot Counting.)

c. Potential candidates may view the membership list of their respective constituency 30 days prior to the Nomination process by setting up an appointment with the Election Committee. Any changes made must be updated prior to the beginning of the petitioning period. All changes must be approved by the Division Council.

6. Necessary Statements: The following statements must also be included:

a. Five (5) signatures are needed to run for Steward (based on 10% of 50).

b. Only PEF members can run or vote in this election. If you are presently not a PEF member, you may obtain a PEF membership application from the Election Committee.

c. Any complaints concerning the fairness of these elections, which are not
resolved to your satisfaction by the Election Committee, should be brought to the attention of your PEF Regional Coordinator and the Divisions Director.

7. Time Structure for Elections

The announcement should also indicate the election schedule by providing the actual dates for the following:

a. Return Date of Nominating Petitions three (3) weeks minimum from mailing of notice.

b. Date Election Ballots available one (1) week maximum from return date of Nominating Petition.

c. Date Absentee Ballots available for on-site election three (3) to five (5) days after return date of Nominating Petition, or

d. Date Duplicate Ballots available for mail election one (1) week after the date the Election ballots become available and obtained locally from election committee. Duplicate Ballots should be identified on return envelope.

e. Election Ballot Return Date two (2) weeks minimum from date Election Ballots become available.

f. Counting of Ballot two (2) days maximum from Election Ballot return date.

8. Typing of petitions, ballots, etc. may be handled at the PEF Regional Offices, but the responsibility for accuracy is to be borne by the Division’s Election Committee. Petitions are to be dated at the election site, facility or PEF office upon receipt. Once a petition has been received, the election committee must mail a receipt form to the candidate notifying them that their petition has been received.

Signatures of candidates and verification of membership status of signatures of petitions are the responsibility of the Election Committee. A membership printout will be provided for this purpose by the Division Department to the Elections Committee.

If the number of nominating petitions received is equal to or less than allocated seats, no election will be held.

II. Ballot Preparation

All ballots should clearly state the date upon which the ballots must be received by the Election Committee at designated PEF office or facility. The distribution of the ballots and the return of the completed ballots shall be accomplished in such a manner as to guarantee each member an opportunity to cast his/her ballot without the necessity of his/her physical presence at the polling place.

The Elections Committee and the appropriate Regional Coordinator(s) shall be responsible for the custody and counting of ballots. (Article V, Section 6) All material must be secured in the PEF regional office for one 1 year from the ballot counting.

Where a Regional Coordinator chooses to run for Steward the Divisions Committee will appoint a neutral party from the Divisions Committee to assume the Regional Coordinator’s role in the election.

Election Balloting may be done on-site, by mail, or a combination of the two. The election results shall be promptly announced after the close of the balloting.

All regular members of the Division shall have the opportunity to vote by written secret ballot for representatives from their constituency. The balloting will be conducted in the manner prescribed in this Constitution and will guarantee the right of each member to vote. The Election Committee must provide at least ten (10) days notice before the election.

Voter must sign outside envelope and state his/her constituency as reflected by apportionment. Any ballots not signed for appropriate constituency shall be voided.

The ballot should have the following instructions:

a. You may vote in this election only if you are a union member.

b. Indicate your preference(s) below by marking the box(s) next to the candidate(s) of your choice.

c. Make no other markings on this ballot.

d. Voting for more than the allowable number of stewards will void your ballot.

e. Insert the ballot into the “secret ballot” envelope and then place this in the business reply mailer.

f. You must sign your name on the return envelope. Unsigned envelopes will not be counted.

g. You can vote for no more than (A) candidates.

h. To be counted a ballot must be received no later than (B) (date and time).

(A) Should be number of Stewards to be elected.

(B) Should be the deadline for ballot receipt.

i. Ties will be broken by the following methods:

1. Two candidates ties: Flip of a coin.

2. More than two candidates tie: Each candidate’s name will be placed in a container, and a random drawing will take place.

III. Ballot Counting Procedures

It is the responsibility of the Election Committee and/or Regional Coordinator to ensure the integrity of the voting process. The chain of custody of the ballot must be documented both before and after counting. The Election Committee will be provided with prepaid return envelopes to whatever PEF office is the most convenient for the election. If the ballots are not to be counted in this office, provisions should be arranged for the sealing of all ballots in a container on the final return date and transporting them to a more convenient site for counting the next day at noon or early evening, so any interested candidate can attend.

Any candidate who wishes will be allowed to observe the ballot counting. At the pre-announced time, the Election Committee should explain the counting process that is to be used. The procedure used should conform to the following:

1. First, a total count of all ballots (envelopes) received should be made.

2. Next the ballots should be sorted into the appropriate constituencies (work locations as indicated on back of return envelopes) and the number of each recorded. (Sample Tally Sheet A.) Make sure sum of these equals total of #1.

Note: Items #3 through #11 must be done individually for each constituency.

3. If ballots were mailed to non-members to give them the opportunity to join and vote, these should be separated out from the already known members. (Use the A & F coding for this sort.)

4. Unsigned outer envelopes should then be segregated from those which are signed. The unsigned ones must be sequestered unopened by work location. Only the number received by constituency is to be tallied, as the votes inside are void and should not be counted. A fee payer envelope may be opened to see if a membership card was enclosed, but for this purpose only.

5. Any outer envelope, which meets the signed member criteria, but appears to have been tampered with (e.g., sealed and then reopened, etc.), should be considered a challenged vote. These should remain unopened in the outer envelopes and placed in a separate pile.

6. Unchallenged outer envelopes, which have met the signed by known member criteria, should then be opened and the inner secret ballot envelopes removed. Do not open these inner envelopes at this time.

If a member has satisfied the above criteria but failed to use the inner envelope (i.e., outer envelope had ballot inside), the ballot should not be disqualified. The second secret ballot envelope is a voter protection for secrecy. If the voter chooses not to use this protection the ballot is still valid since the eligibility criteria were met.

7. Signed outer envelopes from fee payers should now be opened to check to see if a completed membership card is enclosed. Only those which, upon opening contain a signed membership application card are valid. Valid ballots should be added to the proper constituency secret ballot envelope pile. Void ballots which do not meet the membership criteria should be kept in the outer envelopes and placed in the appropriate void pile.

8. Any return envelopes which are empty should be placed in the void pile.

9. An envelope tally, by constituency, of the outer envelopes from the various piles resulting from the sorting procedures should now be made. Each separate category the official tally sheets. Make sure the sum of void ballots (unsigned) (#4), tampered with (#5), non-joining fee payers (#7), and empties (#8) and valid ballots from members (both new (#7) and old (#6)) equals the preliminary total of #2. If these do not agree, a review must be made to find any discrepancies.

10. The valid inner “secret envelopes” should now be opened. This should be done one constituency at a time to avoid mixing the piles.

11. Once all ballots for a particular constituency have been separated from the envelopes, counting of same can begin. One Election Committee member, after making sure there are no more than the maximum number of votes cast, should read the ballot aloud, vote by vote, to another committee member, who tallies this on a sheet listing all candidates on the ballot. This sheet should have a few blank lines on the bottom in case any write-in’s are received. A third member of the Election Committee may wish to watch this process to review for possible mistakes. When each constituency’s ballots have been gone through, a tally for each candidate should be made.

Election winners are determined by rank-order plurality (e.g. in a five (5) steward constituency the highest five (5) vote getter are elected).

If the difference between the last elected steward and the first runner-up is less than five votes or 5% of the runner-ups vote total, a recount should be performed with the Committee members rotating functions. This should be repeated until the same result occurs twice. All tally sheets must be signed by those counting the ballots.

12.When all constituency elections have been finished, copies of the tally sheets should be made. The original and all voting material should then be sealed in a container (e.g. box or large envelope(s)). Each sealing should be signed across by a Committee member. These must be stored unopened in a secure place for a period of at least 90 days, in case there are any challenges of the election results.

The Election Committee should send the election results to each candidate, the appropriate Regional Coordinator(s), and the Divisions Director. The mailing to PEF’s Divisions Director should include the elected steward(s) social security number and should also include any membership cards received, so that they can be processed.

NOTE: Failure to do above notification will cause delay in updating your Division’s steward list with GOER.

On-Site Procedure

A “Sample” ballot with a set of rules for the election must be prominently displayed on all official PEF bulletin boards. The rules must include date, place and time frame for voting, and how to obtain absentee ballots.

Upon showing just cause, a member who is unable to cast his ballot personally may be permitted to cast his ballot by mail.

Absentee ballots must be given or mailed only to individual voting members. All individuals requesting absentee ballots must be listed and this list kept as part of the election material. Adequate means for securing absentee ballots must be guaranteed and the election notice must state telephone numbers to call as well as who a member may notify if unable to reach those listed. Absentee ballots must be returned by the close of business the same day of the election.

Balloting shall be held at a convenient location(s) and time, with such locations and times publicized and posted.

Balloting areas shall be manned by members of the Elections committee. Election notices shall state that anyone who wishes to may observe the proceedings.

All voting members must sign in and be validated by the Elections Committee. Non-members wishing to vote should fill out membership cards prior to voting. These cards should be checked and held by the Election Committee, who shall insure they are transmitted to PEF for processing.

Separate tables should be provided so that voters may mark their ballots in privacy.

If balloting is for more than one day, the Election Committee must secure all ballots.

The time and place of the vote counting shall be on the election announcement and posted prominently.

On-Site Elections Polling Hours

Sites That Have Shift Work: Polls must be open for at least a 12 hour period beginning at 6:30 am.

Sites That Do Not Have Shift Work: Polls must be open at least 1/2 hour prior to the earliest starting times and at least 1/2 hour after the last ending time.

After the election, the Chairperson of the Election Committee must notify in writing: 1) all candidates whether winner or loser (vote totals of all candidates upon request) and 2) the Regional Coordinator and 3) the PEF Divisions Director.

The Regional Coordinator, after elections, must update the steward list by adding new stewards and deleting old stewards.

Immediately following steward elections, the former Council Leader shall call a meeting of all newly elected stewards; in order to expedite an orderly transition within the division (see Officers Election).

Term of office for a Division Council shall not be extended due to the Council’s failure to conduct the election process in a timely and proper manner.

The Division Treasurer and authorized signature of the Division must be permitted to expend necessary operational funds in order to meet the fiscal responsibilities of the Division during the interim period that elections are being held. If there is a delay in the elections for any reason, the Division Committee in consultation with the Secretary-Treasurer would reconsider the authorization to continue expending Division funds.

IV. Officer Election Procedures

The length and commencement date of Division Offices may or may not be concurrent with those of the Division’s stewards. Those Divisions which elect officers by at-large vote of the entire Division membership should use Article V procedures for that election also. For all of these Divisions, the term of office will be the same as that of the stewards. The Commencement date will depend on whether the original officers’ election was concurrent with the steward election. Those that used a deferred election schedule for the officers’ election may continue to do so. For Divisions with more than three stewards, the field of candidates for Division office is restricted to Council members only (elected stewards and Departmental Executive Board members in the Division constituency).

Most Divisions elect their officers by the parliamentarian system (voting restricted to Council members) and usually hold these elections at the first Council meeting following the steward election. The term of office is usually the same length as the steward term of office, although lengths shorter than the steward term can be chosen by the Council, provided it is at least one year.

All rules governing an officer election should be set by the Division Council in advance of the Election. The ability of an individual to run or be considered for multiple offices will be decided by the Division Council.

Officer elections by the Council are usually a much less formal process, since fewer voters are involved and the election generally takes place at a single meeting. However, the right of adequate notice, etc., should be preserved. The following scenarios are examples on how to proceed and other methods approved by the Division Council are acceptable.

One Meeting Method

A steward not running for Division office should chair the election part of the meeting. Each office should be done separately, starting with Division Leader. Nominations and seconds from the floor should first be accepted. Then, each accepting nominee should be given time to give a statement of his/her concerns and program for the office being sought. After all nominees for that office have spoken, an open question period from the other stewards to the nominees should follow. Then a secret ballot election for that office should be taken.

Two Meeting Method

When conducting a Division leadership election, the Council, subsequent to the election of new stewards, shall call a meeting to receive nominations for new officers. A minimum of two weeks notice should be given to all stewards of the nominating meeting in order to ensure that all have the opportunity to attend. The portion of the meeting concerning nominations should be chaired by a steward not running for any of the officer positions.

Following the close of nominations the Council should agree upon a date of the next meeting at which the officer elections will be held. A minimum of two (2) weeks is recommended in order to provide sufficient notice for all stewards to attend. At the meeting where the voting takes place, it is recommended that the Election Committee Chair supervise the voting by secret ballot. The results should be announced as soon as they are tabulated. In the event of any controversy or anticipated dispute, it is further recommended that the Regional Coordinator, who should already have been apprised of the meeting, be specifically asked to attend.