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Elections And The Petition On Election Timelines & Procedures 2009

by Frank D. Blum, Chair, Council Committee on Nominations & Elections
July 20, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 29

Credit: Courtesy of Frank Blum
Credit: Courtesy of Frank Blum

ACS ELECTIONS are changing. The annual election for president-elect and board of directors is around the corner, and many members will choose to vote electronically. So far, the Web voting has gone smoothly, including last year when 68% of the ballots cast for president-elect were entered via the Web. We expect a larger fraction of electronic voting this year.

CLICKERS IN COUNCIL. Council, too, is changing its voting habits. In Salt Lake City, council members successfully used personal response devices (clickers) to record their votes. The use of clickers was a collaborative effort among the Committee on Nominations & Elections (N&E), the Council Policy Committee, and ACS President Thomas H. Lane. The clickers provided almost instant response to the council on its votes, and they will be used again at the Washington, D.C., council meeting.

BYLAWS PETITION. In the upcoming council meeting in Washington, councilors will consider a petition to change the bylaws with respect to timelines for ACS national elections and to change the procedures for petition candidates/nominees. This petition is the third in a series of petitions dealing with improvements in the election process.

In 2007, the bylaws were changed to allow preferential voting and instant runoffs for president-elect and district directors when no candidate receives a majority of votes. This new instant runoff eliminates the need for (and cost of) an additional runoff election.

In 2008, the bylaws were changed to increase the number of signatures required for petition candidates for president-elect (0.5% of the society membership) and director-at-large (0.25%). N&E voted to allow electronic signatures to be used, provided the required elements are included in an e-mail from a paid member.

This year, the Petition on Election Timelines & Procedures 2009 deals with two issues—the election timeline and the petition process for candidates. The petition was written because of concerns expressed in surveys, conference calls, and discussions with nominees/candidates for national office, councilors, and members of the society.

This petition will shorten election timelines significantly. Council will continue to select candidates for president-elect or district director from a list of nominees submitted, both by N&E and via petitions from members. The process would be similar to current practice, but the timelines for council selection will be moved from the spring to the fall council meeting. The membership will continue to select from the president-elect candidates forwarded by council in the fall election. In this sense, the fall elections will look more or less the same when the ballots go out to the membership.

The timelines, as proposed in the petition, do not allow petitioners to automatically become candidates. Rather, petitioners must use the nominee route for entrance into the election process. This means that all candidates forwarded to the membership for selection will be vetted by council. The council is composed of elected representatives of the membership (primarily through local sections and divisions), and this body is knowledgeable and will carry out this responsibility with proper diligence. This process will be fair, and all nominees (hence, candidates) will be treated fairly and equitably.

Candidates and nominees for national office overwhelmingly (but not unanimously) have commented that the ACS election timelines—including the period set aside for campaigning—were simply too long. The time period from their initial agreement to run to the election was very long and took an excessive amount of time away from their regular jobs. In addition, many felt that it was unfair to nominees who were selected by council to become candidates to then discover that additional candidates were later added into the process without undergoing the same level of vetting and scrutiny that council provides.

The proposers of this Petition on Election Timelines & Procedures 2009 and N&E believe that these changes are in the best long-term interests of the society.

PROCESSES. N&E is defined in the ACS Constitution, and its duties are specified in the bylaws. Its duties are primarily to supervise elections and prepare slates of nominees for president-elect, district directors, and directors-at-large for the society. The committee also prepares slates for the elected Council Policy Committee (CPC) and Committee on Committees. CPC prepares the slates for election to N&E. Members of the elected committees of council must be councilors and may serve on an elected committee for no more than two continuous three-year terms. N&E members have diverse backgrounds and broad ACS experience that they rely on heavily in the selection process.

N&E regularly reviews the processes the society uses to conduct elections and election-related activities to ensure fair and equal treatment for all nominees/candidates. Because of the nature of the nomination process, N&E does not release any information on any individual relative to the nomination process. The committee hosts town hall meetings in conjunction with national meetings for members to meet nominees for national office. The committee also holds an open session at each national meeting at which members and councilors are invited to attend and provide feedback to N&E. The open meeting times are listed in C&EN and on the ACS website.



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