Ballot Counting FAQs

Mar 26

General Ballot Counting Procedure

Ballot Collection

Ballot counters should spread around room; wait for judges to hold up folded ballot slips and collect them. The judge should only provide the torn-off bottom slip; if they provide the entire sheet, tear off the large top part (the scoring rubric) and hand it back to them. Indicate to the chief judge how many ballots you have (by holding up fingers, giving them the ballots, walking over and telling them) so they know when all have been collected.

The chief judge collects the timer’s report from the timers and informs the TMOTD when all ballots have been collected.


Chief judge will notify Toastmaster that all ballots have been collected
Chief judge and ballot counters will go to a private area (in a very large room, the back of the room is acceptable–but nobody else should be allowed to come over and possibly see the ballot results)
If ballot for multiple contests/areas were collected, separate them into piles for individual contests; take each one at a time
Set aside the tie-breaking vote; there is no need to even look at it unless there is a tie

IMPORTANT: invalid ballots must not be included in counting!

A separate sheet will need to be used to count; the chief judge should provide this.

  1. If a contestant is disqualified, strike out their row on the calculation sheet so you know not to bother nothing their points.
  2. One person reads the ballot: “First Judge. First place: John Doe. Second place…” and so on.
  3. Second person writes down information, listing the correct number of points (3 for 1st place, 2 for 2nd, 1 for 3rd)
  4. Once all ballots are counted, the two people switch roles and go through the same pile of ballots again, double-checking correct data.
  5. Two people add up numbers; third person writes down total for each contestant
  6. Finishing

    Tie? Take the names of the tied people and look at the tie-breaking ballot; whichever one is ranked higher on the tie-breaking ballot wins.
    The Chief Judge then writes down the names of 1st and 2nd place on a slip of paper in this fashion (SAMPLE):

    I-72 International
    2nd Place: John Doe
    1st Place: Sally Someone

    Why this way? The TMOTD will want to read it, one contest at a time, second place and then first place.
    If there were any disqualifications, the chief judge will note that there was a disqualification for that contest, and the cause (time, protest on originality) without stating who was disqualified.
    Repeat process for each contest there are ballots for.
    Chief Judge will give written results.

    Ballot Counting Problems

    There’s nothing to calculate the results on!
    Nobody brought paper? For crying out loud! Use the back of the tie-breaking slip or something

    There’s nothing to write the results on!
    Seriously, you STILL don’t have paper? Take whatever you calculated the results on and circle the winners, making the contest, name and position as obvious as possible.

    The contest is over! What do I do with all these ballot slips?
    Throw them out—not where everyone is watching, but someplace nobody at the contest will be likely to find them, for privacy’s sake.

    The ballot slip is not signed
    Set it aside. It will not be included in the results (see “OMG! I need the tiebreaking vote, but the ballot is unsigned/incomplete!“). If the chief judge made the judges sign their ballots while she watched in the briefing, this wouldn’t happen.

    The judge marked a tie
    No ties. You have to have clearly listed first/second/third place (assuming there are three contestants—obviously, you can only list as many places as their are contestants) for the ballot to be valid; set it aside and don’t count the ballot.

    The judge didn’t fill first place, second place and third place, but there are more contestants than are written down
    The ballot is invalid. If you have one contestant, first place needs to be filled out. If you have two, first and second need to be filled. If you have three, first, second and third need to be filled out. If you have more than three contestants, first, second and third need to be filled out. Set the ballot aside and do not use it in ballot counting.

    The ballot is invalid for some other reason
    The ballot counters agree they can’t be sure of which name is written in each place? Someone’s name is written multiple times on the ballot slip? Anything else other than a signed slip with contestants written for first, second and third place? Set it aside and do not use the ballot.

    What do I do with the tiebreaking slip?
    Nothing, unless there is a tie. The tiebreaking slip is different: instead of listing the top three choices, it lists ALL contestants in order. To break a tie, whoever in the tie is ranked highest on the tiebreaking slip wins—no math involved.

    OMG! I need the tiebreaking vote, but the ballot is unsigned/incomplete/invalid!
    This is the ONE case you may take the ballot back to the judge in question and get them to fill it out correctly so that the ballot counting can conclude. TI procedure is silent on this situation, simply hoping it will never happen. Try to prevent it with a solid judging briefing.

    For crying out loud! I need the tiebreaking vote, it’s invalid, but I don’t know who the tiebreaking judge is/can’t find them/can’t get them to correct tiebreaking ballot!
    Then the chief judge will cast the tiebreaking vote and decide the winner(s).

    There’s been a protest! What do I do now?
    This is one topic the rulebook does cover. See page 10, point 7. Only voting judges and contestants can protest. Not attendees, ballot counters, sergeants at arms, chief judge, tiebreaking judge, etc. Also, be clear that once results are announced, they are final. You cannot tentatively give an award and then later on decide to disqualify the contestant.

    All contestant eligibility should have been verified at least days before the contest by the contest chair. The contest chair “can disqualify a contestant on the basis of eligibility” so she will have the final say on any eligibility protest during the contest.

    Originality tends to be the difficult question. What is or is not original enough? Look for point 4.D.2 on page 6 of the rulebook.

    Twenty-five percent or less of the speech may be devoted to quoting, paraphrasing, or referencing another person’s content. Any quoted, paraphrased, or referenced content must be so identified during the speech presentation.

    This provides some nice specificity. If the speaker is not citing borrowed material or is using someone else’s material for over a quarter of their speech, they’re gone, right? Well, that still leaves some room for argument. It’s not like you can just take a measuring cup and determine how much of the speech is “unoriginal.” People may argue about whether or not something needed to be identified as paraphrased material, or how altered it needs to be to become original. No matter how people decide that, your objective is to settle this quickly so the contest can proceed. Gather the judges and the accused speaker together, away from the audience. Tell the contestant that there was a protest, that it is alleged their speech is not largely original. Give them a chance to explain why they feel their speech is original. Then it’s time for the vote. No back and forth or endless debate: protest, defense, vote. Bam. The rulebook doesn’t specify, but I would dismiss the contestant, and possibly even hold a quick, informal secret vote among the judges, but do as you think best. The key is to settle the matter quickly and move on, no matter how each judge defines “substantially original” themselves.

    Something else is wrong and I don’t know what to do…
    Time to make a stand, chief judge. The show must go on. Sometimes you simply have to make an executive decision and let the contest go on. If there is someone attending that you feel is more knowledgeable about contest procedure, consider asking them… but you’ll probably find greatly varied opinions and no opportunity to call TI to straighten things out. Sometimes you simply have to make the call.

    Is there a situation missing from this document? Post it in the comments!


  1. justin Gobel /

    This good but no longer current to 2014 rulebook, concerning originality, now listed as 25%, plus none original material needs o be cited (I think)

    • Thanks for the catch! I don’t know if I had missed that detail or if it was a recent addition, but I updated the post.

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