As many individuals in the United States gear up for the November elections, Bahá’ís all over the world are preparing for a different kind of election. Every year on the 20th of April, Bahá’ís in every country elect their local governing bodies. These local governing bodies, called Local Spiritual Assemblies, are composed of nine adult members (age 21 and older) who reside in that locality. All Bahá’ís who vote are also eligible to be elected to serve on the Local Spiritual Assembly (LSA).
“Serving on an institution” is a key point. LSA members are seen as servants of the community rather than as occupying positions of power. The elections are held in a prayerful atmosphere, where after saying prayers and quiet reflection, individuals cast their secret ballots. Adults who cannot attend are encouraged to send in absentee ballots. One of the unique aspects of the Bahá’í elections is that there is no campaigning or nominations. As stated in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, “let them exercise the utmost vigilance so that the elections are carried out freely, universally and by secret ballot. Any form of intrigue, deception, collusion and compulsion must be stopped and is forbidden.”1 Instead Bahá’ís should “consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience.”2
1 In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 8 March 1932 to a Local Spiritual Assembly
2 In a letter written by Shoghi Effendi, 3 June 1925