The chair of the ACS Nominations & Elections Committee (N&E) notes in a recent Comment that "the majority [of councilors] 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" (C&EN, July 30, page 60). While many councilors may think this, I strongly disagree and I feel that this would not be in the best interest of ACS members.
The sole purpose of any petition process is to allow candidates to be presented to the electorate without being filtered through an established inside review. This would be thwarted if council could act as a filter, which is what is suggested by N&E. As a longtime member of the council, I have seen many potentially good presidential candidates, especially from industry, be voted off the preliminary slate mainly because they were not well-known to a majority of the councilors. When the choice is between someone who is familiar and someone who is not, most of the time familiarity wins.
The petition route allows candidates to face the electorate that counts—ACS members. N&E usually identifies good candidates, but several very good past-presidents and other officeholders were nominated by petition, were not weeded out by a council review, and were elected. To me, that is strong evidence that not only is the system not broken, but it is working well. N&E does a good job, and councilors have good intentions, but we need the "check and balance" of a direct petition process to ensure that ACS members are presented with the best possible choices.