By-Elections for Diocesan Synod
- The Diocesan Synod consists of three Houses: Bishops, Clergy and Laity
- Some members are on the Diocesan Synod automatically (ex-officio), e.g. Bishops and members of the General Synod
- Most members have to get elected
Term of Office
- Elected members serve for a 3 year term starting 1 August.
- The main elections to the Diocesan Synod therefore take place once every 3 years
Vacancies can occur at any time during the term of office. Or, it may be that not enough candidates came forward for the main election. These are known as ‘casual vacancies’ and require a by-election to be conducted to fill them.
- The rules that govern the main election, also govern by-elections
- These are the Church Representation Rules 2011, of which Sections 29,31,32 and 48 are particularly relevant.
- These Rules are statutory, and apply across the Church of England
Who are the Electors?
The qualified electors in the election are those who are allowed to propose and second candidates, and vote. These are:
- All members of the House of Clergy of the deanery synod. This includes ex-officio and elected members. It excludes co-opted members
- All members of the House of Laity of the deanery synod. This includes ex-officio and elected members. It excludes co-opted members
Up to what point do Electors qualify?
There has to be a specific point at which the clerical and lay members of the deanery synod qualify to be included as electors in an election. This is 6am on the day on which nomination papers are sent out.
This means that only those who are members of the deanery synod (i.e. who are ex-officio and elected members) at that point can propose and second candidates, and vote.
Qualified candidates are those who can stand for election These are:
Clergy: A person who is a Clerk in Holy Orders who is a member of the deanery synod
Laity: a lay person who is an actual communicant having received communion according to the use of the Church of England or a Church in communion with the Church of England at least three times in the last twelve months; and
- confirmed, or ready and wanting to be confirmed, or receiving communion as a baptized communicant member in good standing of another Church which subscribes to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity under the provisions of Canon B 15A paragraph 1(b); and
- who is at least 16 years old; and
- whose name is entered on the electoral roll of a parish in the deanery, or (in the case of the City Deanery only) is on the community roll of St Paul’s Cathedral or, declared by the Dean of Westminster to be a habitual worshipper at Westminster Abbey.
Candidates & nomination forms
- Every candidate must be proposed and seconded by a qualified elector.
- Proposers and seconders must sign the Nomination Form, and in so doing confirm that they are qualified to do so.
- Every candidate must sign the Nomination Form, to consent willingness to stand and to indicate their willingness to serve if elected.
The Nomination Form has a space for the candidate to write an Election Statement, if desired, for circulation with the Voting Papers. Statements are reproduced as provided onto a sheet of paper (in the same order as names appear on the Voting Paper) which is then distributed with the Voting Papers. In fairness to all candidates the rules for statements (which are quoted on the Nomination Form) must be adhered to. These are that statements must be:
- Not more than 100 words long
- About the candidate’s professional qualifications, present office, and any relevant past experience.
The nomination period must be at least 21 days
This starts from the day on which the nomination forms and Notice of Election are sent to the electors, and ends on the date for the return of Nomination Forms specified.
The voting period must be at least 14 days. This starts from the day on which the voting papers, and papers with the candidates’ statements copied onto it, are sent to the electors, and ends on the date for the return of voting papers specified.
Notice of Election
The Notice of Election accompanies the nomination form, and must be sent to all electors. This must state that:
- an election of ‘x’ members of the relevant House of the Diocesan Synod will be held in the deanery on ‘x’ date [being either the date, time and place of the meeting at which voting is to be carried out, if voting is to take place at a meeting/ or, if the election is by post, the date on which votes are to be counted]
- that candidates must be nominated and seconded by qualified electors on forms to be obtained from ‘x’
- that all members, other than co-opted members of the relevant house of the deanery synod are qualified electors
- that the election will be decided by STV (the Single Transferable Vote)
- that nominations must be received by 12 noon on ‘x’ date
Return of Papers
Nomination Forms must be delivered by post, in person or by fax (email is not currently allowed). However, where the delivery is by fax, in order to be valid the original form must arrive within 3 days of the deadline. Voting papers must be delivered either by post or in person (no electronic means are allowed).
Scrutinising Nomination Forms
The person running the election must scrutinise nomination papers as soon as they have been received and, without delay, inform the candidate concerned whether the nomination is valid, or not. Where the nomination is invalid reasons must be given, and the opportunity provided to submit a valid nomination before the deadline. If by the close of the nomination period, no valid nomination has been received, the candidate shall be excluded from the election.
Supplying copies of names and addresses
The person running the election must, if requested, supply free of charge to a duly nominated candidate in the election one copy of the names and postal addresses of the qualified electors within seven days of receiving a written or emailed request.
The names and postal addresses:
- Must be sent in the same form to everyone (e.g. As a list on a sheet of A4)
- Must consist of postal addresses only and not include email addresses, and
- Sent by post (i.e. not emailed)
The election Count must be conducted by the STV (Single Transferable Vote) Method. Where this is required, the Synodical Secretary should be contacted to confirm arrangements for the Count
Use of meetings for voting
The rules for by-elections allow for a meeting of the members of the relevant house to be held after the nomination period in order for voting to take place.
Where a meeting is held, officers should take along voting papers and hand them out to the qualified electors present. The sheet containing the election statements should likewise be taken to the meeting and handed out.
The voting papers, once completed, should then be collected up.
The Count, which must be by STV (Single Transferable Vote) should take place as soon as practicable after the voting papers have been collected up.
Note: Where a meeting is to be held for a vote to take place, the date, time and place of that meeting must be stated in the Notice of Election sent out with the Nomination Forms, so that all electors have the opportunity to attend if they wish to.
A meeting for a vote to take place can be held once the deadline for receiving nominations (plus three days – i.e. to cater for any faxed forms) has passed. There is no need to wait for 14 days to elapse, (14 days being the minimum period required when voting papers are issued by post).
Context ‘level playing field’
The ‘level playing field’ is an important concept in running elections. It means everyone entitled to participate being given an equal chance to do so. No one has an advantage over anyone else. The same rules are applied across the board.
The election must be demonstrably fair to all.
To fail to do this, undermines the election, and opens it to challenge and appeal.
Context ‘the level playing field’ in practice
Applying the ‘level playing field’ principle means that:
The list of deanery synod members for both houses must be up to date and accurate, so that all who wish to propose and second candidates, and vote, and are entitled to, can do so.
All rules, including deadlines for receiving election papers must be applied equally to everyone. E.g. if extra time were allowed for one candidate, another potential candidate could claim that had that extension been made available to them, they would have got in a nomination form.
Conducting the By-Election
Deciding who is to run the election (i.e. Area Dean, Lay Chair, Deanery Synod Secretary)
Note avoidance of ‘conflicts of interest’, e.g. A deanery officer who is standing in an election or nominating a candidate, must not be the person running that election
Setting an election timetable, and deciding whether the election is to be by post/ or at a meeting of members of the relevant house. The timetable to include:
- Date of Issue of Notice of Election and Nomination Forms
- Date of Return of Nomination Forms [NB must allow at least 21 days]
If by post:
- Date of Issue of Voting Papers and Election Statements (if relevant)
- Date of Return of Voting Papers [NB must allow at least 14 days]
- Date of Count
If by a meeting of members of the relevant house:
- Date, time and place of Meeting [NB this must be stated on the Notice of Election paper, sent out with the Nomination Forms]
Confirm Deanery Synod Lists of clergy and lay Members (except co-opted) are up to date and accurate. These are the Registers of Electors. It is important that the names and postal addresses are recorded of all those entitled to be included.
Produce Nomination Form and Notice of Election (adjust templates provided accordingly)
Issue Nomination Form and Notice of Election
(Once issued these can be sent to non-electors on request).
Receiving Completed Nomination Forms, scrutinising them, and sending a letter without delay to inform the candidate that their nomination is valid, or invalid with reasons stated. (If the latter the person should be reached as soon as possible, to be given the opportunity to submit a valid form by the deadline).
The letter of confirmation should also state:
‘One copy of the names and postal addresses of the qualified electors (clergy /laity as appropriate) is available free of charge to all duly nominated candidates on request submitted either by post or email to [name of person running election] at [address]’
Meeting requests (if any) for copies of names and addresses of electors. (Note: requests may arrive after voting has started).
After the close of nominations, it will be known, whether or not voting is required (a) Where there are fewer nominations than places to be filled, or just enough, candidates are ‘deemed elected’, and are informed that this is the case, or
If there are more nominations than there are places, voting will be required, and (i) Voting Papers, and (ii) Election Statements are compiled for posting to all electors or
(i) Voting Papers, and (ii) Election Statements are compiled in readiness to be taken to the meeting of members, the date, time and place of which has been notified in the Notice of Election paper
(Note: Election Statements (as provided, i.e. not re-typed) should be copied so as to appear on a sheet of paper which accompanies the Voting Paper)
Issue Voting Papers and paper containing Election Statements
Completed Voting Papers are received or
Where it has been decided that the election will take place at a meeting of the relevant house, the meeting is held, and Voting Papers and Election Statements distributed at the meeting, and when completed, collected up
Count by STV – contact the Synodical Secretary to confirm arrangements
Declare results to candidates, and to Synodical Secretary, as soon as possible.