Running Elections

All you need to know about how to run elections and why they are run

All you need to know about how to run elections and why they are run

AGMs, EGMs and Elections - what's the difference?
AGM (Annual General Meeting):
  • An end of year meeting to review your activity and summarise for members

  • Treasurer presents a financial report for the society

EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting):
  • Can be held any time during the year

  • Usually held for hustings for an election taking place mid-year

  • Can be used for society members to have their say/vote on other decisions


The voting process which takes place to officially choose new executive committee members for a society or student group.

Why does my group need to run elections?

Your society is part of the Students’ Guild, which is a democratically led organisation. This means that as students, you have an active say in how aspects of the Students’ Guild run, from electing officers to represent you to electing the committees of your societies and student groups.

Every year, societies and student groups must elect a new committee for the following academic year. By running an election, you are making sure that all members have an equal opportunity to vote for the people who are running the society, or to nominate themselves for a committee role!

When should we hold elections? 

Elections for society committees should be part of the society AGM (Annual General Meeting) and should be held by the end of Term 3. All committees must be elected by the end of Term 3 otherwise your society is considered to have gone dormant. If you require special consideration as to why this is not possible, you must inform the Activities Team.  

You can also hold an election at any time during the year if you need to elect new committee members. These can be part of an EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting) or you can just choose to run the election online outside of your society activity. 

Who can stand in a committee election? 

Any student can run for a society committee positions providing they: 

  • Are a current student of the University of Exeter 

  • Have membership to the society for which they want to run 

  • Will be a student during their term on committee 

Can a student who is studying abroad or on a year in industry stand in a committee election?
  • Anyone who is abroad, on a year in industry, interrupting their degree, or otherwise away from Exeter will need to buy your society membership to stand in an election.
  • Unfortunately we can't add students who are not currently in Exeter to temporary memberships just to stand in an election, as this could be considered election fraud, which is illegal. 
  • Society committees do not have the authority to implement a lower membership price for anyone in these circumstances who wishes to run, as they cannot decide who would be eligible. The data-sharing agreement the Guild currently has with the University doesn't provide detailed information about students' current circumstances. This means we cannot accurately define or implement the criteria by which students would fall under these exceptional circumstances.
  • There are several specialist Councils within the Guild who would need to consult on any process regarding committee elections. 

Activities have been looking into this issue and working with DVP Societies to find a solution. Unfortunately there is currently no solution which is both legal and compliant with the Guild's governance structures. We are sorry for the inconvenience this may cause and will be consulting with other Students' Unions about a possible solution for next year's committee elections.

Societies can consider holding elections for some additional committee roles in September, when anyone who is not a member this year has returned and purchased membership for next academic year.

If you have any questions about this, please contact Activities.

Planning your election 

There are a few things you need to consider when planning your committee elections: 

Review the roles on the current committee: are they a good fit? Is there a role missing? Is there a role that is no longer required? 

  • Make sure you have a clear outline of each of the roles including responsibilities. This helps potential candidates determine which role is the best fit for them.  

Make sure your group’s aims and objectives are clear.  

  • This will provide potential candidates with clarity on the purpose and goals of the society/group 

Review what you’ve managed to achieve this year, what has gone well, what hasn’t gone well and what can be improved.  

  • Potential candidates will be running on a manifesto of what they’d like to achieve so it’s a good idea to provide them with a review to make sure their objectives are achievable. 

You will need select a returning officer, a member of the committee who will not be standing in the election. This should be the President, unless they are re-running.  

  • The returning officer will be responsible for ensuring that the election is conducted fairly and the main point of contact for candidates. 
  • They will also be responsible for setting out the rules of their society’s election, interpreting the rules in the case of any complaints, and deciding on any sanctions necessary. Guild staff are available to offer advice if needed, but any decisions should be taken by the returning officer. 
Online Elections

We understand that every society/student group is unique with different needs and some will see more benefits than others from running an election online, however we believe that all groups will benefit from the following from using the online system:  

  • Better accessibility for members 

  • Increased turnout 

  • Improved transparency  

  • Less paperwork 

How to set up your Online Election 

Society presidents have access to set up their elections via their account on the Students’ Guild website. This can be found under the accounts tab, labelled elections admin. If the returning officer is not the President of the society, then they will need to work with the President to access the admin for the elections as it is the returning officer’s responsibility to set up the election.  

As part of the set up process, you'll need to have decided when you want nominations to open and close, and when you want voting to go live and end.   

Section 1 - Details 
  •  Title - *Society name * Committee Elections 2019
  • Display on Website – this must at the very least cover the date when nominations open and when voting closes.
  • Description - this is optional! You can include a brief description of the election and the positions available. 
 Section 2 – Nominations 
  • Nominations period - this is the period when members of your society can nominate themselves for a position. It is advised for this to be at least 5 working days but not more than 10.
  • Online/ Paper manifesto Deadline - this deadline can be anytime between when nominations close until the end of the voting period.
  • Deposit amount - Ignore
  • Max number of candidacies - Ignore
  • Candidate T&Cs: Leave blank 
 Section 3 - Visibility  
  • Non-logged in users - Select 'Basic'
  • Logged in users - Select 'Basic'
  • Not Eligible message - 'Sorry you are not eligible to nominate yourself for this position as you are not a member of the society.' 
 Section 4 - Profile Page 
  •  Help text - leave blank 
 Section 5 - Polling  

The only field you need to complete of the three voting options is e-voting. You'll need to select a date after nominations have closed to open voting and a date for voting to end which should be at least 5 working days from voting opening but no more than 10. 

  •  Voters T&Cs - leave blank
  • Abstention confirmation text - 'This is to confirm you have abstained from voting for this position.'
  • Voting Completion Text - 'Thank you for submitting your vote.' 

 After completing this select 'Save Election'.  

Adding Posts - 

Reselect the election and go to the 'Posts' section at the top. For each post you want to add click 'Add post' and complete the following: 

  • Select the drop-down box to select the position (click on the position name rather than the box to the left).  

  • If you would like to add a new position, please email in the name of the new position to the Activities Team  

  • Short description - Here you can put a description of the position and the role responsibilities 

  •  Places - number of places available for this position. This is the number of vacancies to be filled. There should be no limit to the number of people who can apply for each position.

  • Options - make sure 'Use RON Candidate' is selected 

  • Manifesto Options - Make sure 'Allow Manifesto text' is selected. You can also add a word count if you wish! The 'Allow Photo' and 'Allow Slogan' are optional! 

  • Then select 'Add Post'!  


Results will be counted by a member of the Activities Team and will be emailed to the returning officer within 2 working days of the close of voting.   

Offline Elections

If your society is holding your election offline, you need to make sure you follow the process below to ensure they are conducted transparently and run fairly. You will also need to arrange a meeting with a member of the Activities Team to run through the process with you.  

1. Announce the opening of nominations. 

Opening nominations is setting the period from which student members of your society can put themselves forward for a committee position.You may choose to announce that nominations will be opening a week before they actually do to give people time to think about whether they wish to run.  
You must advertise this in an email to all of your members with the following content: 

  • What positions are available. 

  • Some information of the roles and responsibilities of these positions 

  • A note of who to contact for more information about each position. 

  • An email address for who they need to submit their nominations to. This will be the returning officer, a committee member who is not planning on running for a position themselves. 

  • A deadline by which nominations and manifestos must be submitted. 

2. Nominations Period 
  • The nominations period should be open for at least 5 working days but no more than 10.

  • At the close of the nominations period, all candidates should be emailed with the date that hustings will occur.  

  • Also, all society members should be notified in advance the date of hustings. 

3. Hold hustings 

This is the opportunity for the candidates to read/present their manifesto and introduce themselves to the rest of the society.  

  • Each candidate should have the opportunity to present and answer any questions the membership may want to put to them. 

  •  Each candidate should be given the same amount of time to present to the group. 

  • The returning officer should chair the question time to ensure all candidates are given an equal opportunity to present and respond to questions posed. 

4. Open Voting 

It is up to you whether you want to hold the vote on the same night as the hustings or do this on an alternative date.  

When opening voting you must remember the following: 

  • The ballots should be collected confidentially by the returning officer. 

  • Ticked and crossed boxes should not be counted. 

  • Voters must rank the candidates in number order with 1 being their first choice etc 

  • You must use the ballot papers provided by A&V, making sure the name of each person running is listed in addition to “R.O.N” and "Abstain".

  • You must use the Single Transferable Voting system (STV), where candidates are ranked in preference 

  • The vote must be confidential –a secret ballot. 

  • Committee members must not try to influence the way their members vote. 

  • ALL paid members of the society are eligible to vote, with the exception of associate (non-student) members 

5. Count the Votes

The returning officer and one other committee member who is not running in the election should be involved in conducting the counting process. 
Depending on the number of candidates running for each position, the amount of time the vote count takes and the number of voting rounds will vary. 
The Activities Team will provide you with a spreadsheet to help you conduct this count. This spreadsheet must be sent back to the Activities Team to validate the results.

6. Results 

After your election is complete, please email your completed spreadsheet to the Activities Team in addition to copies of all the completed ballot papers. 


University of Exeter Students' Guild is a Charity and Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered Charity Number: 1136468 Company Number: 07217324; registered in England and Wales Registered office: Devonshire House, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4PZ