ACS elections—a look to the future | February 29, 2016 Issue - Vol. 94 Issue 9 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 94 Issue 9 | p. 40 | ACS Comments
Issue Date: February 29, 2016

ACS elections—a look to the future

By D. Richard Cobb, Chair, ACS Committee On Nominations & Elections
Department: ACS News
Keywords: comment, ACS
Credit: Courtesy of Richard Cobb
A photo of Richard Cobb.
Credit: Courtesy of Richard Cobb

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 ACS membership. The committee supervises all society elections, conducts elections in council, and resolves the rare election dispute at the local section and division level. N&E also looks toward the future and seeks opportunities to better serve the society’s members by identifying best practices for elections and helping ensure that they are fair and timely.

Those who serve on N&E and put forth recommendations of individuals for the elected committees of the ACS Council and the ACS Board of Directors as well as for ACS president-elect are veteran ACS councilors elected to N&E by fellow councilors. They have extensive ACS experience and are expected to have a broad understanding of the needs of the society and of the leadership skills and experiences required of those who potentially would serve in ACS national offices. But N&E does not serve in isolation.

A review of N&E guidelines and procedures—and actions recommended by N&E and approved by council in the past 15 years—revealed that most improvements and key changes to the election process were in direct response to members’ concerns and suggestions or feedback from the candidates themselves:

suggestions for appropriate activities of board members, other governance leaders, and key staff with regard to ACS campaigns and elections;

town hall meetings to facilitate interaction among nominees for national office, councilors, and members;

the option for candidates to use an N&E-sponsored, ACS-standardized website for posting statements and links to their personal websites;

financial support to nominees for president-elect who do not receive society support from any other sources to address the spring council meeting;

increased efforts to communicate the “ACS Guidelines on Campaigning and Communication” to the entire membership;

candidate videos posted online and shown during national meetings;

expedited procedures for candidate petitions to be submitted by e-mail;

electronic voting for national elections;

a reduction in the length of the balloting period; and

preferential voting procedures for all national elections, ensuring candidates for multiple positions are elected by a true majority.

ACS needs the best leadership possible to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Despite improvements, more can and should be done, especially for soliciting nominations. ACS needs the best leadership possible to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The society’s governing documents are largely silent on the subject of a candidate’s background, experience, or achievements, requiring only that candidates be members. N&E is entrusted to identify individuals with the talent and experience to best represent and govern ACS, permitting the electorate to choose leaders from a wide pool of talented individuals with diverse experiences. N&E has engaged in dialogue with the board to identify experiences and competencies that will best equip those elected to the board to make effective decisions.

ACS still uses some election processes that were established decades ago, but today’s fast-paced world has introduced others that must be considered, such as the use of social media for campaigning. Social media brings new opportunities—and poses challenges. What is appropriate?

Presently, nominees selected by N&E for president-elect appear before council each spring to have the council elect the final candidates. Yet, for directors-at-large, N&E comes forth with direct candidates for two positions. Should it not be the same for all offices?

Then there is campaign financing and the spending of personal funds to run for ACS office. N&E has guidelines for how a candidate can run for office, and which media to use, as well as helpful hints to avoid unintended consequences. But the guidelines are in need of updating, especially regarding how to campaign in a manner that befits the professional image of ACS and is a fair, financially equitable, and pleasant experience for all.

With this in mind, I have established the Vote 20/20 Task Force, charged with examining all aspects of nominations and elections for ACS national offices, and designing a viable process to be in place by the year 2020. The ultimate goal is an effective and equitable process for calling forth all those willing to stand for office and serve the society. Representatives from N&E and other ACS committees have been invited to serve, but it is vital that we also seek ideas from all members as to how nominations and elections should be handled.

As the past has shown, many of you may have ideas and suggestions. I hope you will share them during the course of the task force’s activities. Plans include town-hall-style meetings at regional meetings, where members can bring forth new ideas or compliments or complaints about the present processes used. At the upcoming ACS national meeting in San Diego, members can come to N&E’s open session on Monday, March 14, from 11:30 AM to noon in Aqua Salon E at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel. You can also send comments to We look forward to bringing forth new concepts and ideas to better serve our members with an improved election process—built by all of us together!


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

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