PTO and PTA Election Guide

PTO and PTA Election Guide

Answers to some of the most-asked questions about parent group elections.


Should we set a deadline for when all candidates must express an interest in running for a position?

Many groups do this so that they know whether any positions will be left empty. Another way to handle this might be to reach out personally to anyone you think might be interested in an office. Typically you will know who the likely candidates are—people who have already taken a fairly significant volunteer role but who perhaps have not held office before. We recommend that you allow nominations from the floor the day of the election. There’s no reason to prevent people who want to help from seeking an office, no matter when they make that decision.

When are we required to notify parents that we are having an election?

You should set your election day on your calendar at the beginning of the year. It’s a best practice to hold elections at the same meeting each year. (May is most typical.) Give parents a month’s notice that you’ll be holding elections—you can mention it at the previous meeting and include it in the email when you distribute minutes (if you do).

Help your new leaders transition smoothly and keep your group going strong

Who gets to vote for PTO officers? Just group members? Teachers? Administrators?

Your bylaws determine who votes. For PTAs, voting is limited to dues-paying members. Some PTOs use the same formula. We recommend that PTOs allow all parents who attend the meeting to vote. We feel it’s more important to encourage participation than to collect dues. If teachers are considered members, they also would be allowed to vote. Typically, the principal and other administrators would not vote. They act in an advisory capacity to the group rather than as voting members.

Some parents have said they can’t be at the meeting when we are holding the election and they want to vote by email. Can we allow that?

We advise against allowing voting by email. It can significantly complicate an election. For one thing, the vote cannot be final until you have verified that each of the email votes came from a member who is eligible to vote.

We are a small group. Do we need to use paper ballots, or can we just vote by a show of hands?

You should use paper ballots for any contested election. Robert’s Rules of Order calls for paper ballots, and that can also reduce the chance of hard feelings or awkward situations that can come about following a show of hands.

What do we do if we have a tie for a board position?

Robert’s Rules calls for revoting until a decision is made. But practically speaking, you might want to talk to the candidates about sharing the job or taking on a different project, such as chairing an important committee or holding a different office.

If we have a few nominees for a position, do they need to make a speech on election day?

It’s a good practice to allow each candidate a limited amount of time, say two minutes, to make a statement.

How do we count the votes to make sure everyone feels the process was aboveboard and honest?

Before the election, appoint a committee of two or three people to count the ballots. Choose people who are not current officers and are not running for office. Have them retire to a corner of the room to count the ballots without interruption, and make sure they double-check the count. Announce the results immediately once the committee is finished counting.

If we have a board member who technically can no longer hold a position because of term limits, but no one else will run for the position, can that person get reelected?

We recommend adopting a bylaw that says something like “Officers are limited to a maximum of two one-year terms, unless no other candidates are willing to run for that office. In that case, the incumbent may seek an additional one-year term.”

Originally posted in 2015 and updated regularly.

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