Nomination and Election Recommendations

Robert Drummond (robertd@yorku.ca)
Mon, 26 Jan 1998 12:03:33 -0400


Herewith the revised draft report on election and nomination procedures.
In the ASCII version, it may be that footnotes will not be transmitted.
Since they mostly clarify matters with which you are probably already
familiar, they may not be crucial. Again Marla has hard copies of the
report.

Regards, Bob

Nomination and Election of Faculty Members for Arts Committees and
Senate Seats

At the present time, the Nominating Committee of the Faculty
Council ordinarily meets in the late Winter to develop a list of
nominees for March elections to fill the posts of Chair and Vice-Chair
of Arts Council, vacancies on Arts Council standing committees
(two-year terms) and vacancies in Arts representation on Senate
(three-year term). Normally Senate terms end June 30 and Arts
Committee terms end August 31. A call for volunteers is sent out to
all eligible members of Council well before the Nominating Committee
meets. The Committee ordinarily meets again in the Fall (and
thereafter as needed) to nominate candidates to fill vacancies that
have occurred as a result of unforeseen circumstances; persons elected
in the Fall take office immediately upon their election.

The Nominating Committee has generally accepted responsibility for
ensuring that a slate of nominees is presented to Council with contests
for each available vacancy, and with representation of all ranks,
including contract faculty, both sexes, and all disciplines. Knowing
the discipline, gender, and rank of those continuing on a committee,
the Nominating Committee seeks to present nominees who will diversify
the membership with regard to these variables. For example, where
continuing members are mainly in the humanities, the Nominating
Committee will seek to provide nominees for the vacant positions who
come from non-humanities disciplines, and vice versa. Much of the work
of the Nominating Committee consists in calling members of faculty and
encouraging them to stand for office. The collegial governance of the
Faculty requires at a minimum that people be prepared to do the work
necessary to maintain Council, its committees, and its representation
on Senate; such willingness to serve has not always been evident.
There has been particular difficulty in recent years securing
nominations for the position of Council Vice-Chair. The result is that
the slate of nominations presented to Council does not always satisfy
the desiderata listed above -- i.e., contested elections and wide
representation. Since volunteers, declaring their interest in
particular committees, rarely distribute themselves evenly across the
available vacancies, the Nominating Committee sometimes seeks to
persuade volunteers to stand for a post different from that for which
they have declared an interest. Ordinarily such action will be taken
with a view to the representativeness of the slate as described above.

When nominations are presented to Council, further nominations
(including self-nominations) are accepted from the floor, provided the
nominator can provide assurance that the nominee has agreed to stand.
Such assurance can be in writing, or can be given orally by the nominee
if he/she is in attendance. When the slate of nominees is approved by
Council, an election is held.

In the past, the names entered on the ballot have been identified
only by rank and home department(s). In recent years, the large number
of retirements and new hires have created a situation in which many
members of the Arts faculty are not well known to one another.
Obviously efforts to make faculty members more familiar with their
colleagues in other units will assist collegiality, and it should be
one of the tasks of the Dean and the Faculty Council office to promote
such familiarity through the Arts Newsletter, faculty seminars, and
other opportunities for meeting. Some efforts have been made in that
respect, but they have not been all that successful yet. It has been
suggested that candidates for positions on Arts committees or Senate
representation be invited to prepare a brief biographical and/or policy
statement for circulation with the ballots. Such a practice is common
in some professional organizations and might be accomplished with
little additional cost, especially if the statements were accessible
electronically (on an Arts website) rather than by paper circulation.

Ballots for elections in the Faculty of Arts are sent to
departments which faculty members have indicated as their home units.
The ballots are sent to the Administrative Assistant of the department,
together with a list of those to whom the ballots are to be
distributed. Where a faculty member has an office somewhere other than
in his/her home unit (e.g., in one of the Colleges), the Administrative
Assistant may undertake to forward the ballot to that office.
Individuals complete their ballots, if they wish to vote, and send them
back to the Secretary of Council for counting. This system replaced
(for cost reasons) an earlier one in which ballots were mailed
individually to eligible voters. There has been some concern expressed
recently that the present system does not assure the security of
ballots. Unsealed ballots left in mailboxes are open to possible
removal and use by persons other than those to whom they have been
allocated. Since ballots are not numbered, it would in theory be
possible for someone to duplicate massive numbers of ballots and send
them all in, thereby assuring the election of a particular candidate.
The eagerness of persons to be elected to Faculty Committees or Senate
has not to date been so extreme that such tactics seem likely, but it
must be conceded that the above techniques could be employed to ensure
(or prevent) someone's election with little hope of detection in the
present circumstances. However in the absence of any evidence that
ballot-tampering has in fact occurred, the security issue must be
weighed against the probable cost of any more secure alternative.

What more secure alternatives exist? First, we could return to
the pre-existing system for ballot distribution, wherein ballots were
sent with individual address labels, as is done by Senate Secretariat
with the (much smaller number of) ballots for Senate Committees. There
would be added costs for labels and the time of someone to apply the
labels, and the desirability of ballot secrecy would suggest the need
for an extra sheet of paper (or an envelope) which would separate the
ballot from the label. With some 900 eligible voters, the added cost
is not negligible. A second possibility is to ask that ballots be held
by the Administrative Assistant to whom they have been sent and handed
out to the eligible voter in person, for completion and deposit in the
department or College office. In short, the Administrative Assistant
(or designate) would take on the role of returning officer.
Preliminary inquiries of the Administrative Assistants suggest this is
not a viable alternative. Given the other responsibilities of
department office staff, this added task seems like a burden we could
not easily place on them. A third possibility is the establishment of
a ballot box for some reasonable period in a central location (or set
of locations) staffed by the Council Secretary's designate(s), as is
commonly done for YFS student elections and for YUFA contract
ratification. Such an alternative seems likely to cost more than
simple mailing of addressed ballots and is therefore not a preferred
alternative. Of course none of these alternatives solves the problem
of unnumbered ballots and the opportunity for duplication. A fourth
possibility is the use of computerized voting; if practicable, this
alternative has the added advantage of permitting people to vote from
remote locations. The challenge to practicality is to obtain or design
software that would permit the identification of eligible voters,
assure their restriction to one vote each, and preserve the secrecy of
their choices.

Preliminary inquiries suggest such a system is feasible through
the Arts website, but further discussion will be necessary to assess
costs and benefits more thoroughly. If such a system were adopted, it
might solve many of the convenience, cost, and security issues at one
stroke. In that event, there would have to be a back-up system for
those few faculty members without computer access, perhaps through a
ballot box in the Dean's Office.

In order to protect the neutrality of the Secretary of Council, it
has been suggested, and the Committee concurs, that the Chair of the
Nominating Committee (or his/her designate) should assist the Secretary
in the counting of ballots.

One of the real problems with elections in the Faculty however is
the disturbingly low voting "turnout," in which ordinarily elections
for committees of a Council with some 900 members are decided by the
votes of fewer than 150 electors. This fact is a more serious
impediment to the democratic and collegial governance of the Faculty
than any insecurity of the ballots.

A final issue on which we have received some comment is the
question of whether ballot results should be made public in full, i.e.,
with the vote totals of the successful and unsuccessful candidates.
The argument against doing so in the past has been that it is difficult
enough to get people to stand for election to these offices, without
the added disincentive that they may be embarrassed by the low level of
vote support they receive. Since YUFA routinely announces the results
of its elections with full information on candidates' totals, there is
at least one precedent for contests in which the potential for
humiliation has not deterred participation. We suspect there are very
few members of faculty whose self-esteem turns on the level of their
vote in an election for Faculty office, and the more open and
democratic procedure would be to announce all vote totals (including
the overall turnout). We believe it is useful information for members
of Council to have and we therefore recommend that Council election
results be announced with the vote total for each candidate included.

Recommendations

1. Candidates for elective office should be invited to provide a
short biographical and or policy statement to be distributed to
eligible voters (by the cheapest possible means) prior to the vote.

2. Subject to further assessment of cost implications, the Faculty
should establish an electronic voting procedure for Council elections.
A "back-up" system (probably a centrally located ballot box) should be
available for those who do not have (or prefer not to use) electronic
means.

3. A member of the Nominating Committee should assist the Secretary
of Council in counting ballots from Council elections. (This may mean
confirming the results of electronic balloting, should such a system be
adopted.)

4. Ballot results should be announced in full; that is, each
candidate's name should be listed with the vote total received, and the
candidate(s) elected should be identified.

-- 

Robert Drummond Associate Professor Political Science York University (416) 736-5265 fax: (416) 736-5686 email: robertd@yorku.ca