by Jeff Thom
Last year, I wrote two articles for “The ACB Braille Forum” on extending voting to those not attending the ACB convention. The articles discussed the reasons for implementing a remote voting system, an outline of how the system might work, and some of the questions and concerns that arise. The goal was to begin a dialogue among the membership about whether to take this step.
At its fall board meeting, the board of directors adopted a motion that directed the voting task force to prepare a report providing the findings and input from participants in the mock election. The report had to include possible voting models and/or directions for further action, including cost considerations, and be distributed through all communications media, including ACB Radio and “The ACB Braille Forum,” by no later than the 2018 midyear meetings.
The mock election referred to in the motion was held during May of 2017. In it, those on the leadership listserv were used as a sample set of voters. Participants cast their ballots online and via telephone on both a resolution and a ballot for an office. We used the VoteNow system, the system that GDUI and Blind Pride International (BPI) are currently using for their elections. The overall view was that it was easy to use the system and a positive experience. The goal of that mock election was to allow folks to understand how the system works, not to answer the questions of how to modify our electoral process and the desirability of doing so.
The voting task force met once in November and once in December. The outcome of those meetings is a proposal for the implementation of voting in the election of ACB officers, and directors and members of the board of publications, for all members, whether attending convention or not.
This proposal is the only one that, given all the variables that apply to our elections, and taking into consideration the state of existing technology, staff time, the cost of implementing a remote voting technology, and other factors, we could reasonably view as worth presenting. Under this proposal, VoteNow would be used to implement the individual vote segment of this voting procedure. We chose the VoteNow system after investigating several remote voting providers and considering them based on format, accessibility and cost. Some remote voting companies have online voting but not telephone voting; some have web sites that are not very accessible; some send emails but not postcards; and some are far more expensive than others. We chose VoteNow as the most effective system to meet our needs.
The process would only apply to officer, director, and board of publications (BOP) elections, and not to resolutions and constitutional amendments. In addition, director and BOP seats that come open as a result of an earlier election would be handled in the traditional way.
Before describing how the system would actually work in the ACB election context, it is important to recognize that our problem is that we do not fit the “true” remote voting business model. In a remote voting business model, the ballot is typically known well in advance, and is not created or changed within a matter of minutes. The provider has ample time to create and test the website and telephone ballots. Additionally, voting occurs over an extended period of time — days or weeks, not minutes or hours as in our case.
Under our proposal, 30 days prior to the ACB convention, the ACB office would provide VoteNow with names of every member of ACB certified as eligible to vote. Two weeks prior to convention, VoteNow would provide postcards, and emails if desired, giving each member a personal identification code. You would need that code to cast your vote. The voting process would begin on Wednesday morning, with nominations from the floor and the affiliate vote. Once all nominations were made, VoteNow would configure the ballot. Individual voting would open Wednesday at noon and close Thursday at 8 a.m. Individuals would not vote on the convention floor, but would, like those not attending the convention, be able to vote with their identification codes via telephone or computer. Election results would be announced Thursday morning, and any board or BOP vacancies could be filled by elections conducted in the current manner during the Thursday session.
Some of the issues that using such a system would create include cost. The cost of using VoteNow would be slightly in excess of $9,000. We would need to decide how to pay for this system. Also, VoteNow allows ACB to include biographies of the candidates. Any candidate who chose to run from the floor would need to immediately have his/her biography ready for input into the system. Do we want biographies? If so, do we want to change our practice by requiring that any person who runs for office must declare at some point prior to the election on the floor? What about elections where there are more than two candidates? We could have a run-off on Thursday, using the traditional method where only those at convention could vote, or we could make the highest vote-getter, even if less than a majority, the winner.
With respect to board elections, a losing candidate now has the opportunity to run in subsequent seats. Now, that opportunity wouldn’t occur, unless a vacant seat was created through a board member winning an officer election. Do we want to change our board of directors voting procedure to have one election under which a voter would cast the same number of votes as there are open seats? Should we be concerned that a glitch in designing the ballot could throw off the entire timing of the election? How concerned should we be that, since our elections often occur on or around July 4, short staffing on the part of VoteNow could cause a problem? Should we consider the elimination of affiliate voting, since every member would now have the right to cast a ballot? Should we be concerned that some elections would be handled using the new methodology, while others would need to be dealt with using the traditional one?
We cannot make any change in our voting procedure without modifying our constitution and bylaws. We would need to modify various provisions that limit voting to those at convention.
The voting task force wishes that there were easy answers to the issue of enabling all members to vote in ACB elections, but there are not. We hope that all of you will help us make the right decision for ACB. Those of you attending the presidents’ meeting in February will have the opportunity to provide us with input at that time. However, it is crucial that as many members as possible provide their thoughts and ideas on the future of our system of voting in general and specifically on this proposal. You can provide input either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a telephone message (toll-free) at 1-877-926-1910.
Voting in ACB: A Proposal for Your Consideration
by Jeff Thom