Resources for the curious
Under certain conditions an entire ballot may be declared invalid. These are:
(1) More than nine names on ballot paper;
(2) Less than nine names on ballot paper;
(3) Duplication of names.
Under other conditions, because of specified irregularities, one or more of the names may be invalidated but the rest of the ballot would be considered valid. These irregularities are:
(1) A name not identifiable, or illegible;
(2) The name of an ineligible person, such as a youth or person not resident in the jurisdiction of the voting area, provided of course that each ballot contains no more or less than nine names and no name has been duplicated.
Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated July 29, 1971, to a National Spiritual Assembly (Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities)
The National Spiritual Assembly has received your email of ... inquiring what to do in a case where a ballot contains a duplicate name that is also a spoiled vote. As the first step in the ballot-counting process is to verify the validity of each ballot, in the scenario you have described, the ballot would be considered as spoiled, and it would not reach the next stage of confirming the validity of each vote. (NSA Canada, Email #S46363, 9 March 2012)
68. Each Voter Must Vote for the Nine Best Suited for Election -- Not Betray Sacred Trust
It is a basic principle of elections for Bahá'í Spiritual Assemblies that each voter must vote for the nine people who, in his or her opinion, are best suited to serve. He may have a low opinion of all those who are eligible, but his duty is to vote for those nine from among them who, in his estimation, best meet the standards for service on a Spiritual Assembly. This is how it is possible to vote for exactly nine names. Since the membership of an Assembly is nine, it would give rise to a number of statistical anomalies if voters were permitted to record votes for fewer or more than nine names. In any one election there are not usually any cases where a voter accidentally makes a mistake and includes a name of an ineligible person, so the statistical effect is slight, and there is no need to invalidate his whole ballot. As you point out, a believer who does not wish to vote for nine, may achieve his end by purposely including the names of those who are ineligible, but this would be a betrayal of the trust placed in him as a Bahá'í voter. One cannot control such actions, but like any action contrary to the spirit of the Faith, they are detrimental and should be strongly discouraged. (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 21)
85. Results Reported to National Assembly for acceptance and Instructions to Tellers about Re-voting
In answer to your question about who should decide this matter, the House of Justice states that it is the duty of the tellers to report the entire result of the voting, to the National Spiritual Assembly which has a duty of accepting the tellers' report before it is presented to the Convention. If the National Assembly sees that the ninth place is tied and that one of the persons tied is a member of a minority, it would instruct the tellers to report the results on this basis without calling for a re-vote. If, however, there is any doubt at all as to whether a minority is involved, the Assembly should resolve the matter by instruction that a re-vote for the ninth place should be held. (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 25)
The tellers are appointed by the outgoing Spiritual Assembly. Any Bahá'í, adult or youth, in good standing may serve as teller; however, the Chief Teller should be an adult. The task includes:
- Collecting the ballots
- Counting the ballots
- Making certain that the ballots are valid
- Recording the results
- Reporting the results to the election meeting
- Submitting to the local and National Spiritual Assembly a report signed by all tellers. This report becomes part of the permanent records of the community.
In addition, the Chief Teller is responsible for organizing the work of the tellers, announcing the results of the election and any other relevant information desired by the electors, and ensuring that the election report is signed by all tellers. (Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities)
The National Spiritual Assembly has received your email of ... regarding tie-breaking votes in elections. You are correct in your understanding that there is only a need to break a tie in Local Spiritual Assembly elections in cases where the membership of the Assembly is not determined. As you have indicated, in unit elections, a tie-breaking vote should take place if the assigned number of delegates is not determined on the first ballot, as well as when there is a tie between any of the three believers receiving the next highest number of votes after the delegate(s). It is necessary to determine the order of these three believers so that, should a delegate move out of the unit prior to the National Convention, the National Assembly is able to recognize the believer receiving the next highest number of votes as the delegate instead. (NSA Canada, Email #S40470, 16 March 2011)