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Nominations & Elections: Refining The National Election Process

by Barbara A. Sawrey, Chair, Committee on Nominations & Elections
June 30, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 26

THE ACS COMMITTEE on Nominations & Elections (N&E) serves the society by selecting candidates who can provide quality leadership from among the broad diversity of the membership. The committee supervises all society elections, conducts elections in council, and resolves the rare election dispute in a fair and equitable manner. N&E also consistently looks toward the future and seeks opportunities to better serve the society's members by identifying best practices for elections and helping to ensure that they are fair and timely. To this end, N&E has been carefully studying the length of the current process for national elections and whether valid signed petitions should make one a candidate or a nominee.

For several years, N&E has been receiving feedback from candidates for national office regarding their concerns about the campaign process. An N&E task force determined the scope of these concerns and developed a list of recommendations to address them; the ultimate goal is the creation of a comfortable and equitable process for all those willing to stand for office and serve the society. The committee has acted on several of the recommendations, and only two remain to be addressed: the need for a level playing field, which includes a recommendation that the process for petition candidates be revised and that campaign guidelines be revisited, and the need to shorten the timeline for national elections.

To determine the best course of action, ACS initiated several surveys over a two-year period. New candidates for national office were surveyed as usual, relevant sister societies worldwide were surveyed in order to gather information on their nominations and election processes, and ACS councilors and other members were surveyed twice—once to determine their understanding of and satisfaction with the current nomination and election process and a second time to gain specific input on the election process. Councilor teleconferences were held during the summer of 2007.

In March, the committee again sought input from councilors via a series of conference calls. These calls were designed to gain councilor perspectives and advice on shortening the president-elect timeline. To prepare for the call, councilors received a chart of four scenarios pertaining to the president-elect process:

Scenario 1: The current president-elect timeline of about 15 months wherein N&E receives broad input after the fall national meeting and develops a slate of four nominees. These nominees are presented to council for a vote at the following spring meeting, reducing the slate to two candidates. Petition candidates are certified in July, and society membership votes are tabulated by mid-November.

Scenario 2: A shorter timeline of about nine months wherein N&E receives broad input at the spring national meeting and develops a slate of four nominees. Council votes at the fall meeting to narrow the slate to two candidates, petition candidates are certified in September, and society membership votes are tabulated in mid-November.

Scenario 3: A shorter timeline of about nine months similar to Scenario 2 except that petition nominees enter the process in June; council then has an opportunity to vote on N&E nominees and all petition nominees at the fall meeting. The selected candidates are placed on the ballot for the fall election, and returns are tabulated in mid-November.

Scenario 4: This scenario is similar to Scenario 1 in terms of time (about 15 months) except that petition nominees enter the process in February, and council has an opportunity to vote on all petition nominees and N&E nominees at the spring meeting. There is no change in the timeline; however, there is a change in the petition process.

After receiving the charts, councilor participants commented on the scenarios, offering pros and cons for shortening the timeline. The possibility of petition candidates entering the presidential race earlier in the process as petition nominees was also discussed.

By a large majority, councilors participating in these calls opted for Scenario 3—a shorter timeline with petition nominees entering the presidential race much earlier in the process. Several suggested that allowing petition nominees to enter the process earlier would give councilors an opportunity to review the credentials of all nominees at the same time, hear their responses to questions on the issues at the town hall meeting, and present their positions and aspirations for the society before councilors at the council meeting. In addition, ACS would continue to attract the caliber of presidential candidates representative of the discipline, scope, and direction of the society.

Councilors who selected Scenario 2 believed that the timeline should be shortened but that the petition process should remain the same. N&E is most appreciative of each councilor who participated, and we value these comments. Clearly, the comments will help refine this process in the future.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


Through surveys, teleconferences, and open-door communication with councilors and the membership, N&E is being thoughtful and methodical in its deliberations. The committee will now move forward with proposed bylaw changes based on the feedback we have received. Please send additional comments by e-mail to You can be certain that we are listening.


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