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Elections

Reactions

November 22, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 47

 

American Chemical Society elections

I congratulate our recently elected national officers and thank them for their willingness to lead the society and build our future. However, three aspects of our elections greatly concern me.

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Results
Voting breakdown for fall 2018 ACS elections.
a No candidate attained a majority in round 1. Following the procedures for preferential voting approved by the ACS Council, second-preference votes of the candidate receiving the fewest first-preference votes were distributed to the remaining candidates in the second round. b Following the procedures for preferential voting approved by the ACS Council, in the event of a tie for last place in the second or succeeding rounds, the candidate with the lowest first-round preference votes is eliminated. The eliminated candidate’s second-preference votes are redistributed in the next round.

1. Only 14,000 members voted, which is at best 10% if we assume that foreign members did not vote. In 1971, 39% voted! Are the remaining 90% satisfied with our direction or just would like something different? This should be thoroughly studied.

2. In the director-at-large (DAL) election, 369 councilors voted out of 487—118 did not vote! The councilors wear two hats. As dues-paying members, they have the freedom of not voting for president or district director. However, they cannot shirk their duties in the voting for DAL. Their election gave them the privilege and duty to vote for DAL. Even the past presidents, who are ex officio councilors for life, should vote. The election is conducted electronically in a period of one month; there is no excuse for not voting. The Nominations & Elections Committee (N&E) can easily determine who did not vote and at least warn them or notify the ACS units that elected them about it.

3. We use a preferential ballot for the election when there are four candidates for two positions. We stated our choices in first, second, third, and fourth orders. There are various systems to determine the winners. However, the process used by N&E has an imperfect way to resolve ties. When two candidates are tied at the end, it should not be only the number of first-place votes to break it. The decision should be based on how many times each candidate placed higher on the preference list than the other. This would be equivalent to a runoff between the two tied.

Attila E. Pavlath, 2001 ACS president
Albany, Calif.

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Comments
Roger Barth (December 23, 2018 10:01 PM)
Dr. Pavlath knows why voting is so light in ACS elections, and probably so do you, or you would have voted. But let's have a look at it anyway.
The ACS is mostly a scientific publishing corporation. Information services (the publishing business) accounts for over half a billion dollars in revenue, compared to less than 19 million for education and services (the learned society) The officers that you or I can elect have essentially no role in this, they restrict their attention to "dues-supported" activities. As a stark example, the nominal President of the ACS serves only a single one-year term and receives no salary. By contrast, the Executive Director got nearly one million dollars in 2017 [https://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/about/aboutacs/financial/2017-form-990.pdf] and can serve indefinitely. The President of the Chemical Abstracting Service got over one million. The eleven highest ACS salaries totaled over 6.5 million dollars. I do not begrudge these men (all men but one) the money; I'm sure they deserve it for the highly technical work of running a big publishing empire, but the leaders we can elect are not the actual leaders of the ACS.

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