I tagged this question with just in case details from the books did not make it into the show.

The title says it all, really.

We see that the Night's Watch has to vote to elect a new Lord Commander, but in the show we see (I think?) only those stationed in Castle Black having the possibility to vote.

Is that really the case? Even when all castles were manned?

  • I've accepted Mike's answer because it includes also the book details I was interested in, but please consider reading and upvoting also LethalCoder's well written and detailed show-only answer.
    – Federico
    Sep 5, 2017 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


The Commander of each castle votes on behalf anyone who stays behind. Here is the quote from A Storm of Swords:

You were allowed to have a friend cast your token if you had duty, so some men took two tokens, three, or four, and Ser Denys and Cotter Pyke voted for the garrisons they had left behind.

This also takes into account people who are absent from the voting, even if they are still at Castle Black, as they can't afford to have no one manning the Wall.

If there were more castles open as there were in years past, it would likely have been the same system with their Commanders voting on their behalf.

  • Is this ever commented on in the show?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Sep 4, 2017 at 15:44
  • 3
    @TheLethalCoder I'm not sure, but OP explicitly stated that he is allowing details from the books in case the show doesn't mention it. Sep 4, 2017 at 15:45
  • I have seen that I was just wondering as I couldn't find if it was commented on so I assumed it wasn't. Just wanted to make sure I hadn't missed something from the show, especially as my answer got downvoted. I did see the books mentioned it but wanted a show only answer.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Sep 4, 2017 at 15:46

Show Only Answer

TL;DR: It appears that they don't though it isn't conclusive either way with the evidence we are given.

Looking through the transcript it appears only those present in the room have a vote. However, people can be voted on that are not necessarily present, though I haven't re-watched the scene to find out.

Ser Denys Mallister joined the Watch as a boy and has served loyally longer than any other Ranger.
- That's right.
- Through ten winters he served.
As Commander of the Shadow Tower he kept the wildlings away. We could do no better.

Then they talk about beginning the voting with only those present in the room, before Sam nominates Jon.

If there's no one else we will begin the voting. The triangular tokens count for Ser Alliser Thorne. The square tokens for Ser Denys Mallister.

Therefore, it would appear you have to be in attendance to vote and as I doubt they'd leave Eastwatch and the Shadow Tower empty it appears as though they don't get a vote. Also as candidates are only nominated there and then this also appears to be the case so they can't vote and send a representative. So tough luck if you aren't there apparently.

On a re-read of the transcript I saw this line:

Does anyone wish to speak for candidates before we cast our tokens for the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch?

So it would appear candidates are nominated before the actual voting, with Jon being an exception, so representatives could come down from the other castles to vote for everyone. However, if I've looked correctly this is never commented on. Though as far as I know we never see Ser Alliser Thorne or Ser Denys Mallister names put forward and the scene begins mid meeting so the names might have only just got put forward there and then.

There is also this quote fro Stannis in his conversation with Jon before the vote:

Tonight, the Night's Watch elect a new Lord Commander. Ser Alliser Thorne is going to win.

Though it was common knowledge that Ser Alliser Thorne was going to run and was popular enough to be voted in so it doesn't confirm either way if the candidates are put forward before the vote meeting or during.

Here's the scene for reference:

  • I think it's one of those things they may have inferred off screen, which is something they mentioned in interviews about this season, they expect the viewers to expect a lot to happen off screen and that's how the plot developments happen
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 4, 2017 at 16:27
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 4, 2017 at 16:28

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