How To Hold Successful Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) Elections In 2021


Senior Patrol Leader elections are one of the most important aspects of Scouting! Typically, your elected SPL will hold the position for at least 6 months, so it’s crucial that your troop use a fair and reliable process when choosing a Senior Patrol Leader.

To organize an effective Senior Patrol Leader election, an SPL should be chosen by a troop majority vote. Candidates will ideally be given the opportunity to deliver short speeches of around 2 minutes, in which they explain why they should be elected SPL, as well as their plans for improving the troop.

PS. This article is based on the experiences and research of Eagle Scout, Kevin A and Cole 🙂

This means that a newly appointed SPL should never be selected by the previous SPL or chosen by a unit committee or Scoutmaster. It’s crucial that a new SPL is democratically elected into the position by their peers! The Senior Patrol Leader position has been designed this way because an SPL is tasked with representing the best interests of a troop’s scouts. 

An important thing to keep in mind is that the SPL election process often differs amongst troops. As Scouting should be scout-led, there is no “official” SPL election layout that needs to be followed. You and your Troop have a lot of freedom in deciding how to run the election!

While there is no set plan that must be followed, there are some keys that we’ve found tend to make SPL elections run more smoothly and successfully! These keys come from our own experiences organizing SPL elections, so don’t be too alarmed if you’ve heard of other troops doing things differently. 

In this article, I’m going to be walking you through each phase of planning and holding a successful SPL election. Having helped run countless SPL elections in the past, I’m confident that these tips will help your troop to run elections in the best way possible. Now without further ado, let’s get into it!

Collect Nominations For Eligible SPL Candidates, Beforehand

First and foremost, you’ll need to have a handful of Senior Patrol Leader candidates to vote for! In my troop, we chose SPL candidates by nomination, roughly 2 weeks before the end of our current SPL’s term. Basically, any scout could nominate a First Class, Star, Life, or Eagle Scout for the SPL position.

Once nominated, the SPL candidate could either accept or decline their nomination. If they were willing to become SPL and could fulfill the required duties, they’d be put on the ballot for our upcoming SPL election! 

Nomination tip: You might be wondering what types of scouts you should nominate as your troop’s potential future SPL. This is really up to you! A good rule that I tried to follow when nominating others was asking myself, “Does this scout think, talk, and act in ways that are in the best interest of our Troop?” 

If I could think of several examples where that eligible scout acted with the best interests of our troop in mind, I would nominate them! If I couldn’t think of too many examples, I’d keep them in mind for the next SPL election. Below are a few nomination ideas that you can implement in your own troop:

  • At least 2 weeks before the elections, dedicate a portion of your troop meeting to gather all the scouts in attendance and ask them for nominations.
    • If they’re having them trouble coming up with nominations, have them write down their top three possible scouts who’d make for a good SPL, collect their lists, and then tally up the results! 
  • Around a month before the SPL election, set up an anonymous “nomination box” where your fellow scouts can submit nominations. 
  • I’d recommend allowing scouts to nominate themselves if they truly wish to become SPL. Participating in an SPL election can be a valuable experience in itself!

Set Aside Time for the SPL Candidates to Deliver Their Speeches 

One of the best ways to choose a future SPL is by having the candidates deliver speeches on how they intend to help your troop. The ability to deliver effective speeches is an extremely valuable skill for the ‘real world’ and there’s no better place to begin practicing than in your Scouting troop during SPL elections!

In my troop, we had each of the SPL candidates prepare a 1-3 minute speech before the election. On the night of the Senior Patrol Leader elections, they’d deliver their speeches in front of our entire troop! Personally, this was always an occasion to look forward to. 🙂

If you’re planning your own SPL Election speech and are unsure of where to begin, I’d highly recommend checking out my article on How To Write An Election-winning Senior Patrol Leader Speech!

However, being able to speak publicly was not a strict requirement for becoming SPL. I’d recommend that if one of your candidates is not comfortable speaking publicly, they be allowed to develop a speech video or even create an “SPL plan brochure” to share with scouts before the SPL election.  

In their speech, an SPL candidate should clearly state how they intend to support your troop throughout their term. While an SPL candidate should be free to structure their speech however they like, I’d highly recommend they cover at least one of the following talking points:

  • In what ways could your troop be improved? Conversely, have you seen any recent successes that your troop could learn from? 
  • What is your leadership style? Why do you think your leadership style will work while serving as SPL? 
  • What makes you a great leader? Why do you want to be your troop’s next SPL? 

Set Aside Time For Troop Questions 

It’s important to set aside time after the election speeches to allow scouts to ask questions of the SPL candidates. Questions can clarify points that were said and give the SPL candidates a chance to directly respond to their fellow scouts’ concerns!

This questioning portion of your SPL elections can be done in a variety of different ways. Really, whatever method your troop most enjoys will be the best method! Below are just a few ways I’ve seen the questioning segment done:

  1. Immediately after the SPL candidate delivers their speech, give the audience of scouts an opportunity to ask questions. Often, 3-5 questions can be answered in a 3-minute questioning period.
  2. Have a panel of your SPL candidates all answer the same questions. This is a fair and effective way to see how each SPL candidate’s views differ. If this option seems like something you want to do, make sure you keep a time limit on how long each SPL candidate can respond for!
  3. Collect questions anonymously and then have a designated scout ask the most popular questions to each SPL candidate after all candidates have spoken. This is a great option if scouts in your Troop don’t like to talk too much.
  4. If there are only a few SPL candidates, you could host a “mock debate” where candidates could discuss their approaches to troop concerns. This is one of the most fun methods of questioning!

If all else fails, you and your troop could secretly come up with a list of 2 or 3 common questions to ask each SPL candidate. After the speeches are delivered but before voting begins, you could ask each candidate to choose a question to answer.

Questions You Could Ask An SPL Candidate

  • Ask the SPL candidates how they would go about solving a troop-wide issue. If they don’t have an idea of how they would solve it, ask them what steps they might take towards coming up with a solution. 
  • Ask them to explain a time during their Scouting career where they had a challenge leading someone or a group of scouts. What did they do to navigate that challenge? Were they successful in solving the issue? 
  • Ask them what being SPL would mean to them, personally. How much time could they commit to the role? Often, highschoolers have many other commitments outside of Scouting, such as sports, schoolwork, and even College Applications Where They List Their Eagle Rank.

Cast Anonomous Votes For Your Next Senior Patrol Leader

When it comes time to select your next SPL, one of the best ways to be fair and respectful towards the candidates’ feelings is to vote anonymously. Additionally, scouts won’t be swayed by seeing the votes of their fellow scouts, and will instead consider their own experiences with each SPL candidate! 

You might be wondering what the best way to hold a vote could be. While anonymous voting can be done in a variety of ways, the following 3 methods are what I’ve seen most commonly used, and tend to work the best:

  1. The easiest way to vote anonymously is to have all the scouts in the audience lower their heads and have them raise their hands to vote for their chosen SPL candidate.
    • One of your fellow scouts or an adult leader could then be the designated counter and tally how many votes each SPL candidate gets. 
  2. Another classic way of carrying out the voting process is to hand each scout a piece of paper and have them write down their vote on that paper.
    • They would not be including their names along with their vote. Afterward, you would collect the papers and tally up the votes. 
  3. If you’re looking for a virtual way of collecting votes, you could set up a Google Form and send the form to all the scouts who intend to vote.
    • As the creator of the form, you can see what the results are once all of the votes come in. 
    • Zoom polls are also an effective way to anonymously vote if your troop is holding virtual meetings. You can check out my other article for 7 Great Virtual Scout Zoom Meeting Ideas!

Remember that a scout is kind. Although SPL elections shouldn’t be a popularity contest, some candidates may feel hurt if they do not receive many votes. This is why it’s best to keep voting anonymous. By following these ruled of thumb, you’ll be able to hold great SPL elections without hurting any feelings! 🙂

Create Conditions And Goals For The Newly-Elected SPL (Optional)

Not every newly-elected SPL needs to outline goals for their term, but there are a few cases where adding some additional requirements could benefit your troop. For instance, if your troop had reelected the SPL who served the previous term, you may want to add some conditions to their second term. 

Conditions: For instance, requiring that the newly-reelected SPL lead a training class for scouts interested in being SPL the following term could help to create more troop leaders in the future. Obviously, it isn’t in anyone’s best interest for one person to remain as your Senior Patrol Leader, indefinitely!

Goals: Another thing to consider is having the newly-reelected SPL set different goals than those they had their last term. This way, during their upcoming term they’ll be able to improve your troop in different ways!

Remember that the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) position is one of the toughest yet most rewarding leadership positions to hold in Scouts BSA. SPLs act as the leader of your Troop, ensuring tasks get completed, PLC meetings are run smoothly, and scout-adult communication is maintained.  

By setting a newly elected SPL up for success right off the bat, they can serve as a powerful force for improving your troop. That’s why goals, conditions, and clear communication with the scouts is vital to an SPL’s success. To learn my greatest tips on how to be a dependable SPL that your troop will listen to, check out my article, here (in progress).

Conclusion 

To elect a worthy SPL that your troop will love, you need to have a great SPL election process. Great work reading this far, I hope that these 5 keys will help to make your next SPL election run that much more smoothly! For more info, I’d recommend checking out the BSA’s official SPL FAQ here. 🙂

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to hold an SPL election. If it turns out that your troop works better without following any of these keys, then I encourage you to do so! When it comes to SPL elections, always have the best interests of your Troop in mind. 

PS: If you’re an up-and-coming SPL candidate that really wants to be elected, I’d recommend checking out my guide to Winning A Senior Patrol Leader Election (An SPL’s 5 Step Guide). This is an extremely helpful resource that’ll definitely increase your odds of getting elected as your troop’s next Senior Patrol Leader!

As one final word of advice, I’d also encourage you to reach out to other troops to see how they run their elections! Learning from others is an important way to avoid making mistakes, yourself. Thanks for reading and, until next time, I’m wishing you all the best on your Scouting journey!

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

Recent Content