Issue Date: July 30, 2007
Nominations & Elections: A Glance At The Future
The ACS Committee on Nominations & Elections (N&E) serves the society by selecting, from among the broad diversity of the membership, candidates who can provide quality leadership. The committee supervises all society elections, conducts elections in council, and resolves the rare election dispute in a fair and equitable manner. Also, N&E consistently looks toward the future and seeks opportunities to better serve the society by identifying best practices for elections and helping to ensure fair and timely elections.
To that end, N&E has been looking into a variety of changes to society elections and is bringing forth guidelines for submitting electronic petition signatures, guidelines for conducting division and local section elections, and a petition on new runoff procedures for president-elect and district director elections. Recently, N&E held a series of conference calls with ACS councilors to gain their perspectives and advice on election issues that the society and N&E have been grappling with. Councilors were asked to review and discuss these topics:
• The current process for national elections, including the length of the election cycle (currently it is more than a year from the time nominees are contacted to the conclusion of the election);
• The petition process, whether the current signature requirement is appropriate, and whether valid petitions should make one a candidate or a nominee;
• Alternating industry and academic presidents-elect (Should this practice be ensconced in the bylaws?); and
• The nature of campaigning (Should it be limited or disallowed? What is ACS's role in ensuring that voters are uniformly well-informed of the qualifications of candidates and nominees?).
The three one-hour conference calls, which included the participation of 16–18 councilors each, afforded participants the opportunity to address these issues from an objective, yet candid, point of view. As a preface to this discussion, councilors were given an overview of each issue; they were then encouraged to respond to questions related to the issue. N&E members listened as councilors articulated their views and, in some cases, offered very specific suggestions for the committee to consider.
On the question regarding the timing of elections, councilors generally agreed that the entire election process from nomination to election could and should be shortened, with some councilors offering suggestions on how to do so. However, most councilors agreed that this is an area where the committee should offer a more detailed set of recommendations for a revised process.
When asked direct questions about campaigning such as "should it be prohibited?" and "should it be standardized?" councilors tended to offer very specific answers. Several expressed appreciation to N&E for providing clear guidance on the overall campaign process. Some felt that there was no way to influence or stop campaigning. Others recognized that there is opportunity for greater standardization and would like N&E to move in this direction. N&E asked this question after polling dozens of other societies and finding a surprising result: Very few allow active campaigning by candidates, apart from the release of a statement and biography.
As at the spring council meeting, questions about the petition process drew very candid responses. Councilors offered their opinions on the percentage of signatures that should be required when nominating candidates for president-elect. Most agreed that requiring more signatures was necessary. However, only a few agreed that it should be 1% of members. Suggestions of a percentage that would be higher than the 300 signatures currently required, but less than the 1% of members that N&E proposed last spring, resonated with many, while others felt a proposed fixed number of signatures such as that for district director could be appropriate. The majority agreed that all petition candidates for president-elect should appear before council, as do other nominees for this office, and that the petition route should not put one directly on the election ballot.
N&E guidelines recommend presenting alternating academic and industrial (including government and nonprofit organization) slates of candidates and nominees. Councilors were asked if this practice should continue. Positive responses were greater than 90% and were followed by discussion of challenges that are encountered in securing candidates for the industrial slates. Some argued that the best candidate should be sought regardless of affiliation. This is appealing given N&E's sometimes challenging efforts to identify industrial nominees. However, nearly all councilors agreed that petition candidates for president-elect must match the slate affiliation (industrial or academic) identified for that election year.
Prior to the conclusion of each call, N&E members responded to questions and/or offered clarifications to comments expressed by participants. In some cases, participants revised their responses, noting clarification of the issue discussed.
The committee expressed its appreciation to each councilor who participated and the value of their comments. Clearly, your assistance in offering advice on these topics helps keep us focused on the future—a future that requires that we remain at the forefront and be consistent with ACS's culture. We invite your additional comments; please send them by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can be sure that we are listening.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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