Section 12: County Council Membership and Election

County council election information

It is advisable that the council have a functioning election committee in place responsible for suggesting and recruiting potential candidates. By September 1, the council and faculty need to begin preparing for the county extension council election. This section has helpful materials and suggestions. Regulations regarding appointed members must be followed. Other materials are designed to meet the legal requirements of Chapter 262.550-262.620 R.S. Mo. 1969.

Extension engagement specialists should hold continuing discussions with councils on council membership with respect to maintaining a diverse representation of the county.

Building the extension council

Election committees chart the future of the local county extension program through the candidates they select. The committee's work represents one of the more important responsibilities of the council. Election committees start by considering who should be on the council.

Who is needed?

Today, it is generally accepted that council members should have diversity in perspectives and experiences. This provides broader discussions, consideration of a number of alternatives and better decisions. Each person's background will shape his or her contributions to the discussions. At the same time, the central concern should be for a shared sense of mission on the council. Extension council candidates should represent various age groups, races, ethnicities, genders, veteran status, abilities, socioeconomic statuses, locations and career backgrounds throughout the county. Special skills such as fund raising, public relations and administration should also be considered.

The first job for the election committee is to identify how well continuing members represent various categories within the county. Extension council members and staff should be asked for their suggestions for candidates prior to an election committee meeting. One word of caution regarding diversity on councils: to achieve diversity, some councils will decide to simply enlarge a council. Larger councils are rarely more effective. They often become diffused and uncoordinated, developing an “inner” council as the active functioning center of control. Councils should be small enough to act as a deliberative body and large enough to carry out the necessary responsibilities. The number of elected positions on councils is set by law with a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 20. The number of appointed positions will depend on the number of farm organizations and towns in the county.

Changing election district boundaries can be a useful tool in achieving diversity and representation.

Who will serve?

Missouri statues state that there must be at least two citizens residing within the district nominated for each elected council position.

Discussions of possible council candidates often include conversations where someone says, “Mary would be good, but I doubt if she will do it.” If Mary would be good, she should be asked to serve, regardless of the perception of whether she would serve. People join councils for many reasons, and it is difficult to determine what might affect their decision. People may join for personal enrichment, fun, prestige, nostalgia, sentiment, friendships and personal associations, opportunities for business, professional and social contacts, desire for change and social involvement, honor, privilege, mental rewards, visibility and societal recognition, the challenge of governance, and the feeling of accomplishment. If a good candidate is suggested, recruit them.

The certificate of membership is maintained in the county office. The membership roster and council demographics form must be submitted as an attached file in an email message to your regional director and placed in the digital civil rights compliance file by April 1.

Suggestions for selecting nominees, holding county council elections and securing appointed members to the council

Possible methods of securing nominees:

  • The elections committees are appointed by the council. These may be composed of council members, non-council members or both. Diversity and interest are encouraged in selecting nominees.
  • Analyze race, gender and the social and economic make-up of the council and compare with the community to determine appropriate representation.
  • The elections committee should make a report to the full council. A nominee list from the meeting is returned to the full council for follow-up.
  • The entire council then makes additional nominations at a regular meeting.
  • Other nominee sources might include organized service club members, local alumni from various institutions, local business and institution leaders, and various other community leaders (e.g., P.T.A, League of Women Voters, etc.).
Appointed nominees

For those appointed members whose terms expire, the local extension council is responsible for contacting the organization for appointments. Examples include MFA Inc., Farm Bureau, and National Farmers Organization. A list of counties eligible to appoint members from these organizations will be supplied. Extension staff and council members should not contact state offices of eligible organizations. The local council is responsible for contacting the county commission and city or cities eligible to appoint members. In making contacts to secure appointed members, efforts should be made to stress MU Extension's equal opportunity responsibilities.

The letter to the appointing organization may be used by your council for contacting the local general farm organizations after you confirm your county farm organization's eligibility to appoint someone.

Suggestions for holding elections

The county extension council decides on the election method used. It is recommended in the County Extension Manual that a ballot box be maintained in all county offices during election week. The online voting system is used through the local county webpage where all votes will be recorded before closing the election cycle. Mail-in ballots also may be used. Decisions regarding the method for conducting the elections should give all eligible citizens an equal opportunity to vote.

Election held at public polling place

NOTE: The county clerk will be able to answer any technical election questions.

  1. Select polling place or places. These must be staffed during voting hours.
  2. State date and hours that polls will be open. All counties are encouraged to consider the third Tuesday of January.
  3. Publicize reasons for election and procedures.
  4. Select non-running council members or volunteers to conduct the election and staff the polling place. Provide instructions and ballots to them. Ballots will be counted at a central location.
  5. Register individuals voting at polling places using the registration log.

Election by mail-in ballot

  1. Develop instructions and ballots to publish. This example may be used:
    Enclosed is a ballot, listing nominees for election to the University of Missouri Extension Council of Named County. Citizens of voting age and residents within their respective extension district within Named County are eligible to vote for one nominee for each position in their respective district. Vote by marking X in the square in front of nominee’s name. Vote only one ballot and in only one district. The ballot will be void if votes are cast in more than one district.
    The enclosed ballot is being sent to each eligible voter upon request. If you know of any eligible voter who did not get a ballot, please request one for them, or ask them to request one from the MU Extension center at 555-555-5555. Mail the completed ballot to the MU Extension Center, (address), or leave it at the office in a self-addressed envelope. The ballot must be postmarked on or before midnight of January DATE, YEAR.
  2. Determine and publicize how and where a ballot may be obtained.
  3. Be sure you have clearly stated the date by and place where ballot is to be returned.
  4. The MU Extension county council is to receive, count and record mail-in ballots.
  5. Since there may be difficulty with post office canceling machines, the ballots should be returned as post cards or in envelopes. Do not use folded sheets or paper without envelopes.
  6. Through news media, remind voters of final date for returning mail-in ballots. This should be done one week before the final date.

Election by meeting(s)

  1. Set date, place for election meeting or meetings and publicize.
  2. Prepare ballots and instructions and develop a program for election meeting.
  3. Select a chair and a secretary for each meeting.
  4. Hold district or countywide election. Be sure to keep minutes.
  5. Have eligible voters register using the registration log. Voting should be done by ballot only.

Election time schedule (alter to fit your needs)

This schedule is based upon your council election being held on the third Tuesday in January. Adjust your time according to your schedule.

  1. October and November — Select nominees, at least two for each elected position and secure nominee's approval.
  2. November — Check names with organizations appointing to avoid duplication and ensure eligibility to serve. Council may choose to publicly seek nominees using news release seeking nominees.
  3. December — In early December, publish list of nominees at least once in public news media using news release in December_30 day. This will conform to the “not more than 50 days or less than 30 days” clause in the legislative act. This must be a legal notice and will be paid for by the local council. Local newspaper editors can help here.
  4. January — Publicize election by giving date, time and place using news release for ballot week 1.
  5. January — Council elections held.
  6. January (after election) — Certify election. Notify elected and appointed members of date, time and place of annual organization meeting and election of council officers.
  7. January or February — Post announcement in local paper and social media of new council membership.
  8. February — Hold annual meeting of the council to organize, elect officers and set dates of council meetings. All officers of the council shall, within five (5) days after their election, take and sign the usual oath of public office, which shall be filed with the county clerk. This may be done at the organizational or annual meeting. Record, print, finalize and submit the electronic (web version) of the election, and update all council members within the electronic council tool.
  9. March 1 — New council takes office. Provide new members with a Certificate of Membership.
  10. March — Newly elected council members attend training.
Suggestions for publicizing your council election

No later than October, council chair should begin discussions on how to organize and publicize the January election.

  1. A council committee may be appointed to develop a written plan (what is to be done, who will take the lead, when it will be done, etc.) or the chair may want to develop a plan of action in partnership with the extension engagement specialist to present to the council.
  2. Publicize the election. (Note #2 under Problems below.)
  3. Announcements that council nominations are being accepted should be sent to news media in November. The news release seeking nominees may be used, with newspapers charging for the required legal notice. Use news stories and newspaper columns on radio; for instance, the council chair can be interviewed by an area specialist or station personnel.
  4. Junior 4-H leaders may want to use the election as tie-in for citizenship programs.

Using mass media outlets

  1. Announcement of election date and acceptance of nominations must be published in public outlet that is approved for the publication of legal notices, 30 days prior to the election using news release in December 30 day. This is a paid public notice, not a news story.
  2. The council chairman, committee chairman or engagement specialist should solicit help of local newspaper editors and radio and television news directors in publicizing the election.
  3. Provide newspapers with photos and background information about council nominees prior to election.
  4. After ballots are in, get election information to local news media immediately. Encourage local newspapers to use photos and biographical information about new members.
  5. Once elections are over, write appreciation letters to news media and other appropriate groups.
Problems encountered in prior extension council elections

Occasionally, problems have occurred that might have been avoided had decisions been made ahead of time. Meeting minutes should show these decisions. Below is a list of some problems and some suggested solutions.

  1. Tie vote. The current council decides in advance of the election how it will resolve a tie vote.
  2. Legal notice. News articles are not sufficient. The list of nominees must be published in a legal notice. See local editors.
  3. Lack of clarity on district boundaries. A map of the county showing district boundaries may be published in newspapers.
  4. Get nominations made on time. Keep nominees informed of developments; be sure they have accepted before names are published.
  5. Order of listing names on ballot. The council may draw numbers for position, or they may be placed in alphabetical order.
  6. Deadline date for nominating petitions to be submitted. This must be included in the legal notice of nominees published “not more than 50 days or less than 30 days”.
  7. Polling places. Provide enough; keep open long enough; and locate sufficient members to staff each for election. The county clerk may be helpful here with all technical and legal election aspects.
  8. Insufficient voting instructions. Make sure they are clearly stated and easily understood.
  9. Write-in ballots. It is not the intent of the legislative act to have write-in ballots, so any person's name written in on the official ballot will not be counted.
  10. Statutes do not make provisions for absentee ballot.
  11. Establish criteria for the selection of potential council members with the idea of having a diverse council. Examples to consider are location within county or community sector.

Orientation of new members

As soon as the person is elected, formal introduction to the council begins. The importance of effective orientation to a council is well known but not frequently done. Some available options for orientation and responsibilities are listed below.

Immediately after the election inform all nominees of their appointment to the council or thank them for running. For those who are new, send an invitation to the next council meeting and inform them of how they will be sworn into office.

Each council member should be given a packet of materials describing the institution and should include the council best practices, the county council manual (state statute), the latest annual report and budget, list of current council and contact information, an organizational chart for the county including faculty and staff, an organization chart of extension, descriptions of local programs, current offices within region or nearby, a schedule of meetings for the year, and a set of minutes for the past year.

Online Basic Council Training through Canvas — Each region has Canvas online training available to council members. Ask your regional director for the link to this course.

Leadership Training — Regional directors and engagement specialists may hold leadership training for council members. This 8-hour training may be done in one day or in several sessions outside of the regular council meeting. Ask your regional director for upcoming dates.

Short training sessions are incorporated into regular council meetings throughout the year. If the council would like something specific, talk to your local engagement specialist.

An experienced member can be assigned to mentor a new member, making sure they have information they need, are introduced to other council members and have someone to turn to with questions.

Some councils arrange an informal occasion for the entire council to meet new members and county staff. A social affair permits new people to become acquainted with their future associates.

Include name cards at council meetings so new members and guests know who they are speaking to.

Encourage members to attend meetings with other county council members for interaction and to understand MU Extension.

Other useful resources