February and March are great months to gear up for spring elections. For many students, running for a student council office is one of the most exciting risks they will take during their time in middle or high school. Elections give students the chance to share the visions they have for improving their schools and to learn how to effectively market themselves to their peers.

There are a number of things to keep in mind to ensure your elections run smoothly. Use the tips below to get your council ready for the upcoming election season.

Establish and communicate the elections timeline.

  • After an election timeline is approved by you and the principal, share it with the student body and faculty at least one month before the first key date.
  • Make the timeline easily accessible to all students, whether it’s online or via hard copy.
  • Include locations and times for all election activities and events.
  • Tell candidates where to submit their forms.

Get principal approval on any rule or qualification revisions.

  • An important aspect of doing election reviews early is to give you and the principal sufficient time to read and evaluate any revisions that may be necessary to ensure they are appropriate.
  • Be sure that candidate qualifications are identified in the governing document of the student council (constitution or bylaws). Adding other qualifications may be seen as an effort to restrict or discourage students from running for office.
  • Every candidate should be given a copy of all forms and rules pertaining to the election.

Welcome, congratulate, and educate potential candidates.

  • Host a candidate meeting for students who are considering a run for office. During the meeting:
    • Students will hear from current officers about their roles and responsibilities.
    • The adviser can address the time commitment and expectations for officers.
    • Rules and forms are distributed and reviewed (some NASC councils require attendance at candidate meetings, and it is the only way students can acquire their election packets).

Run elections like the real thing.

  • Give students a rich election experience by incorporating features of civic elections.
  • Invite the board of elections to assist and provide voting machines.
  • Run a voter registration.
  • Be prepared to manage a run-off vote, especially if there are multiple candidates.

Remove the mystery of ballot counting.

  • Adopt an ethical process to count ballots.
  • Counting ballots is typically the responsibility of the elections committee.
  • Counting should include students and at least one faculty member or administrator.
  • After the ballots are counted and winners announced, recognize that some candidates will be disappointed with the election outcomes—so make sure to congratulate everyone for taking this brave and important step to serve their peers and grow as leaders. —