October, 2006
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



The ASHI Election and Voting Process

BRION GRANT

Each year, questions arise about ASHI’s voting process such as: Does my vote really matter? Is ASHI’s electronic voting really secure and secret? Who counts the votes? Why is there only one person selected for each officer position? What constitutes a quorum?  

As the 2006 ASHI Secretary, it is my job to oversee the society’s balloting, and this article will provide a brief synopsis of the various bylaws, policies and procedures that are used in our yearly elections and other voting opportunities.

Our society is membership-driven, and the officers and board of directors of the organization are elected by the membership. The officers are elected by a direct vote of the Members, while the Board of Directors is elected by the Council of Representatives, who are chosen from among the membership. This is the essence of democracy that people have a right and duty to elect people who will represent them and serve their interests.
There are different kinds of issues and circumstances that require a vote of the membership. Each one has specific requirements for a quorum, method of voting and tabulation of the results.

1. Election of the officers of the society (bylaw 7.2.2)

2. Conducting business at the annual and special meetings of the society (bylaw 9.4)

3. Changing or amending the bylaws or standards of practice (bylaw 11.1.2)

4. When  “… in the judgment of the Board, any matter shall arise which requires a vote of the members….” (bylaw 9.5)

Election of officers

ASHI officers are elected each year in the fall and any member can be placed on the ballot in one of two ways.

One way is to be selected by the ASHI Nominating Committee. The bylaws 8.2.1 states: “The Nominating Committee shall select annually, for election by the voting Members of the Society, one or more nominees for each of the following offices: President-Elect, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer, …” The Nominating Committee is made up of eight members of the council of representatives and a chairperson, who is a past officer appointed by the president and approved by the board. This committee has protocols and procedures that it uses to select a slate of candidates. In the recent past, the Officer Nominating Committee has selected only one person for each officer position.

To learn more about the function of the Nominating Committee, please see the accompanying article, written by its 2006 Chair Don Norman.

The other way for a member to be considered on the ballot is through the petition process. The bylaws state: “A valid petition containing the printed name and signature of a minimum of 10 percent of the then ASHI Members in good standing submitted to ASHI Headquarters shall cause the name of a qualified Member to be added to the ballot as a candidate for a specified (named) office.”

Once the candidates are chosen, there are very specific guidelines, timetables, forms and protocols for the actual election. The bylaws and policy and procedure manual are available on the ASHI Web site in the Membership Extranet section, Downloads and Forms, ASHI Documents and Forms.   

Electronic balloting

The ASHI bylaws allow the Board of Directors to accept electronic balloting whenever mail voting is authorized. ASHI currently uses electronic balloting and tabulating in almost every voting circumstance. Here’s how that process works:  

Electronic balloting starts with a message being sent to members who…

a) Have an e-mail address

b) Are eligible to vote

In that message, there is a link or links with personalized information to the ballot page(s). When the member clicks on the link, he or she is passed to the ballot page and the personalized information is processed to determine...

a) If the linker has voted previously or not

b) Whether the linker has eligibility to vote

If the person is eligible to vote, the ballot is shown. If not, a different page is displayed. After a voter has made selections on the ballot, there is a ‘submit vote’ (or similar) button.  If that button is clicked, the voting information is written into the data table. It records the date and time, a voter ID, the IP address of the voter and the votes themselves. If a person leaves the page without clicking the ‘submit vote’ button, he or she may re-visit the ballot page later and will be allowed to vote.

Once the voting is closed, the ballot page coding is adjusted so that no one is allowed to view it. The votes are tabulated using an administration tool or by database calls that give counts associated with the candidates (including write in votes, if any.)

The voting tables are retained for the prescribed period.
If ASHI has a member’s e-mail address, the member will automatically receive an electronic ballot. If ASHI does not have a working e-mail address or the member requests, he or she will be sent a paper ballot.

Quorums and Voting

Every vote matters! If the 2000 national presidential election didn’t convince you of the importance of every vote, nothing will! Selecting the society’s leadership, changing bylaws or modifying the Standards or Ethics are critical issues that make an organization meaningful and successful.

In the election of the officers, there is no requirement for a minimum number of votes cast. “A plurality vote shall constitute an election.”(bylaw 7.2.2) This ensures that the election will take place even if participation is poor.

In order to change or amend the bylaws or standards of practice, however, there does need to be a minimum number of votes received. Section 9.5.2 of the bylaws states: “Any matter submitted by mail ballot shall, unless otherwise mandated by the Bylaws, be decided…by the majority of the votes that are received within a period of time…provided that in each case votes of 30 percent of such members shall be received.”  

ASHI has had issues in the past that were defeated not because they were poorly conceived, but because too few members voted. In most cases, it was a blow to the society and to the committee members who had worked hard to bring the issues to the members.

The policy and procedures for counting the ballots are well-known to Angie Stark, ASHI’s executive and financial assistant, who has administered many elections under the supervision of Rob Paterkiewicz, ASHI executive director. She explains:

“During the election process, I check in all paper ballots as they are received at HQ using a secure, online administration program. Also, I check each individual envelope as it comes in to ensure that the back is signed and the membership number is there. In an Excel workbook, I track who asks for a paper ballot in lieu of voting online to avoid any possible duplicate votes (both paper and online) as paper will supersede online votes.

“If any e-mailed ballots are returned as undeliverable from the initial launch, I send out a paper ballot shortly after receiving this notice to allow the member to cast a vote. In addition, in the cover letter sent with this paper ballot, the member is asked to include his or her updated e-mail address to update the ASHI database for future correspondence from ASHI.

“The day that the ballots are counted (which is the morning after the election closes), I work with the ASHI Secretary and Executive Director to strictly follow the guidelines in the Policies and Procedures manual, which require that the paper ballots be separated into piles of 20, and then tally the votes. I prepare a report of who voted (note: NOT for whom the person voted for) to compare to the online administration program to ensure that no votes are cast both online and on paper. A second report shows each position and the number of votes that each position received to allow for tallying the final votes.”

ASHI is required to hold an annual meeting, traditionally held in conjunction with the InspectionWorld conference. The bylaws state: “At least 10 percent of the voting Members in good standing present in person shall constitute a quorum for the conduct of business at annual and special meetings of the Society…” Typically, voting at this meeting is done by voice votes as needed.

Our society spends significant resources to ensure impartial, secure voting and tabulation. Our staff is dedicated and committed to be accurate and vigilant. Every Member should also do his or her part by VOTING when the privilege and opportunity arises. Remember, your vote does matter!

Anybody with specific questions relating to the balloting process or procedure can call me at 928-525-1881 or e-mail me at bcg@northlandhome.com.