POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy


Associations in the US can be incorporated or unincorporated. The latter of which aren't subject to federal regulation under US law.

There is no regulatory body for unincorporated associations and they aren't bound by specific legislation, although some federal laws may apply to them. Associations are usually not-for-profit membership organizations which share a common purpose as opposed to being a regular, profit-driven business. Typical examples of unincorporated associations are voluntary organizations, sports clubs, housing associations and community groups.

Some professional or trade associations are mandatory. For example, membership of teachers' unions is compulsory in several US states.

Governance of associations

Since there is no general legal framework for unincorporated associations, they are free to create their own bylaws. However, some states have guidelines indicating certain basic things which need to be included.

The main contents of bylaws include the aim of the association, details concerning the board of management, members’ benefits and duties, meetings, finances, and dissolution, among others. In addition, the board of directors is elected to run the unincorporated association on behalf its members. 

Associations may act on the national, state and/or local level. 

See also: Online voting, Bylaws, Association Bylaws

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