Five tips for great troop leader elections

“Troop elections are a microcosm of American democracy,” said Scouter J.C. Shepard on Scouting magazine’s Facebook page.

He’s right, and like the election for a state governor or U.S. Senator, proper planning is needed to make troop elections run smoothly and ensure that all candidates have a fair shot.

Many troops will begin their elections in the next month or two for new leaders that will take over in January, so that makes now the ideal time to start thinking about the process.

We asked our Facebook friends to provide some suggestions as to what works and what doesn’t when filling troop leadership positions. Here are five of our favorite responses:

  • The first rule of troop elections is: Have troop elections! Appointing the senior patrol leader (and/or the patrol leader) is not how it works! (from Jack B.)
  • Our last senior patrol leader was elected because he promised all the boys who voted for him a new knife. The Scoutmaster was gone that meeting, so the vote stood. He turned out to be so bad that another older Scout had to make all the announcements and run the troop because he wouldn’t. Surprise, surprise. I wish the boys took it more seriously. (from Anna G.)
  • Our Troop holds its elections every six months. The boys all stand up and make their speeches, then they vote by secret ballots handed over to the Scoutmaster. We don’t restrict the age or rank of any candidate; it’s another learning experience for them if they elect a boy who isn’t mature enough for the position but we haven’t run into any issues yet. It seems to work for them.(from Carol S.)
  • We have a “contract” that must be signed by each Scout and a parent/guardian when they are elected to a position. If they don’t live up to the requirements, I can remove them from the position (something I’ve yet to have to do). (from Tim H.)
  • As with everything else in Scouting, keep things simple and trust your Scouts! In my experience, Scouts choose great leaders from amongst their troop without a whole lot of fuss. We have a tradition of having our SPL candidates give a speech to the entire Troop just before they vote. The Scouts vote, the Scoutmaster counts the votes and announces the winner. Simple.Patrol leader elections are even easier; these are taken care of by the SPL and his assistants. We haven’t had any rancor or infighting about this because Scouts understand the basic fairness of the process. (from Clarke G.)


  1. My troop is L.D.S.,( I am not). The Bishop told me (S.M.) that it was his job to APPOINT all leaders in our troop. What say you. L.D.S. seems to have a lot of things that differ from what I have been taught, and I have been through many training sessions, including WOOD BADGE.

  2. Our Troop allows the boys to distribute candy right before the vote. Although it appears to be a consensus that this is not appropriate by the leading adults, they allow the scout leadership to make this decision, as they want a scout led troop. Is there any comments or suggestions on this process?

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