#12: Organizing an Election

Sirharrok

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#2
Some thoughts about Alec's election article, which is generally thoughtful and well-conceived:

>When there are no more questions, the candidates leave the room. The >person in charge of administering the election (usually the president,
>though it could be some other officer, especially of someone is
>running for re-election) first opens the floor for general comments
>and discussion.Once everyone has agreed to end discussion, the officer
>hands out ballots.

In my view, candidates should be entitled to vote, because:

-as members, they have the same entitlement to have a say in the direction of the club as the other members who aren't candidates.

-in a small organisation, the candidates could make up a significant proportion of the membership. Precluding the candidates from voting could lead to election results that did not reflect the true views of the membership as a whole.

I must say I'm also sceptical about the idea of a discussion session without the candidates. It's a great idea to throw the floor open to discussion, but the candidates should be present to rebut any particularly outrageous claims against them.

>You want to give the members a chance to discuss any issues or
>concerns they might have away from the candidates so people can
>discuss the options frankly without worrying about hurting people's
>feelings.

The club that Alec is discussing is a democracy. If you want to stand for office in a democracy, including a gaming club, you've got to expect people to criticise you and potentially hurt your feelings. If you're not prepared for this to happen, don't stand for office.

Of course, this doesn't mean that club members are entitled to make defamatory allegations about you. The election meeting of a club needs to have a strong chair, who will sit down anyone who gets out of line. But the candidates have got to be prepared to take criticism to their face and respond to it.

>Two officers (and preferably the advisor) leave the room with the
>ballots and count them in a private area.

In a larger organisation, I'd recommend having a provision in the club constitution that allows the candidates to appoint scrutineers to represent them during the count. Scrutineers can watch the count, point out invalid votes, ask for recounts, but can't touch the ballot papers or the ballot box.

>The group doesn't need to know what the vote tally was...

I fear I disagree strongly with Alec on this point. To a politician, including a student politician in charge of a gaming club, knowing the vote tally is vitally important, for two reasons:

-a candidate elected in a close race will know he has little scope for moving from the tried and true; one elected in a landslide can be confident that he has support for his most radical utterances;

-a candidate who stands for office several years running needs to know how their vote is trending. Consider, for example, a club president who is elected to office with 70 per cent of the vote. A year later, she is re-elected with 51 per cent of the vote. Clearly, she's doing something wrong, even if all her friends are telling her everything is fine. If she doesn't know the vote tally, all she knows is that she won twice. If she knows the vote tally, she can take action, change her approach, and make sure she is elected a third time.

Cheers
Sir Harrok
 

Kid Twist

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#3
Thanks for the comments! Let me address them in order:

In my view, candidates should be entitled to vote, because:

-as members, they have the same entitlement to have a say in the direction of the club as the other members who aren't candidates.

-in a small organisation, the candidates could make up a significant proportion of the membership. Precluding the candidates from voting could lead to election results that did not reflect the true views of the membership as a whole.
Yeah, I can see this. However, there are two schools of thought here. One is that people need to have their say, no matter what, and if people in the club feel that way, I can respect that. The other school of thought, though, says that each candidate is likely to vote for themselves, which doesn't change the election outcome at all, and therefore it's not important if they vote or not. Now, in an election where you have three or more candidates and you're ranking people rather than just voting for one, then it's more important to have the candidates vote, since their rankings could make a difference in the outcome, but if it's a generic vote for one of two people, I don't seeing how asking them to not vote is really going to affect it all that much.

Again, if the club feels the candidates should get a vote, I see no real reason to argue against it. I'm just stating that I don't see it as that big of a deal. I also realize this apparently uncaring attitude towards the disenfranchising of voters can be worrisome for some people; please see my answer to your third point for a response to that.


I must say I'm also sceptical about the idea of a discussion session without the candidates. It's a great idea to throw the floor open to discussion, but the candidates should be present to rebut any particularly outrageous claims against them.

The club that Alec is discussing is a democracy. If you want to stand for office in a democracy, including a gaming club, you've got to expect people to criticise you and potentially hurt your feelings. If you're not prepared for this to happen, don't stand for office.

Of course, this doesn't mean that club members are entitled to make defamatory allegations about you. The election meeting of a club needs to have a strong chair, who will sit down anyone who gets out of line. But the candidates have got to be prepared to take criticism to their face and respond to it.
I can see a case for this, too. I actually waffled a bit on whether or not to include this, and I can see reasons both for and against. I think it can be helpful to bring up relevant facts, but I can see the chance for misuse by talking about people behind their back. I've seen it work, but I don't think I would have a problem if people didn't want to do this.


In a larger organisation, I'd recommend having a provision in the club constitution that allows the candidates to appoint scrutineers to represent them during the count. Scrutineers can watch the count, point out invalid votes, ask for recounts, but can't touch the ballot papers or the ballot box.
This I don't approve of, for a couple of reasons. The first is that, if you're a club that needs this column, you aren't that large, and trust issues of this nature are horribly divisive already. As I said in my column, I recommend having the advisor or a third party there to oversee if there are questions about the neutrality of the counters, but in my experience, even in elections where there was some tension brewing, no one was untrusting enough to accuse the counters of playing favorites or cheating. If the election is so divisive that people seriously consider the need for "scrutineers," then you have problems far beyond what my column has addressed.

Further, I don't think that "invalid votes" really need to be pointed out. Again, this isn't Florida in 2000; if you've got a ballot with a few names on it, and the choice is "pick one" or even "rank people from first to last, in order of preference," I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that people who have been in college for at least a semester are smart enough to figure out what to do. If there are questions or concerns, the advisor (ideally, or perhaps a representative from Student Org if the advisor is unavailable) can collect and tally the votes, and if people don't trust them...well, then I think those people are more problematic than they really need to be.

While the gaming club is a democracy, it's only a democracy to a point, because ultimately, the group with real power is the university, and if your club is being problematic, they're going to intervene, whether or not you vote on it, and they can make or break whatever rules they want. So the assumption I make is that, while the club is a democracy, it's not an adversarial system as most political elections are. You don't have two (or more) political parties attempting to hash out election rules, and there is a neutral third party that one can always appeal to: the Student Affairs office. Because, honestly, the university doesn't really care all that much about the club. They want you to succeed, yes, but democracy, in this case, is just a way to make less work for the university, and if it starts becoming more trouble, they will close the club down. Therefore, it's not in anyone's interest to divide the club up so much that elections need massive oversight.


I fear I disagree strongly with Alec on this point. To a politician, including a student politician in charge of a gaming club, knowing the vote tally is vitally important, for two reasons:

-a candidate elected in a close race will know he has little scope for moving from the tried and true; one elected in a landslide can be confident that he has support for his most radical utterances;

-a candidate who stands for office several years running needs to know how their vote is trending. Consider, for example, a club president who is elected to office with 70 per cent of the vote. A year later, she is re-elected with 51 per cent of the vote. Clearly, she's doing something wrong, even if all her friends are telling her everything is fine. If she doesn't know the vote tally, all she knows is that she won twice. If she knows the vote tally, she can take action, change her approach, and make sure she is elected a third time.
I think you're applying political theory to an area that doesn't quite fit that realm. For one, most candidates should have some idea as to where they stand with the general members, and if they're using effective leadership skills, there's no excuse for not knowing it. They should be talking to the members and soliciting their opinions for major changes. We're not dealing with vast swaths of people across a geographically large area--they're officers in a gaming club. If you want to know what the members think, put it on the agenda for a meeting. The ones who care will let you know, and you can have a reasonable discussion to get all of the viewpoints then.

Second, a candidate will not be in office for several years. At most, a person will be a candidate for three or four, and even then, my experience is that the average officer serves one or two years, and then gets really busy before graduation. even if they are, the membership will have greatly changed in that timeframe, with older members leaving and newer ones coming in.

Third, most candidates won't be making large decisions without input from the general members, so "approval ratings" aren't usually needed. While they are allowed to make certain decisions when needed, the general members aren't electing someone to send to Washington--they're electing someone who they'll have regular contact with and who is charged with making sure they're informed about important decisions and events. If they have problems with a decision, they'll let that person know now, and that person will pay attention because, even in a club with a few dozen people, you're not dealing with such a huge number of people that the president or secretary or whoever can't sit down with them and talk about the problem personally.

Again, if the officers are using effective leadership skills, I don't see any reason why they should need to check the votes for how popular they are because they should already know, and if they're not using these skills, I would say they need to become better leaders, not wait for a once-a-year vote to figure out how well they're doing.
 
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spshu

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#4
Problems with holding elections at the end of the year is that the incoming freshmen or transfer students don't have a say in the leadership. Perhaps some sort of board member for them, no duties but represent the new students in making policy.
 

Kid Twist

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#5
Problems with holding elections at the end of the year is that the incoming freshmen or transfer students don't have a say in the leadership. Perhaps some sort of board member for them, no duties but represent the new students in making policy.
In a larger club, you might have a New Member Liason, who is responsible for helping new members get acquainted, but really, shouldn't the whole club be doing this? No, the new members don't have a say in the leadership on this schedule, but they also don't know much about the system yet or how things need to get done. And if they really like the club enough, they'll be around for the next election, when they'll have the experience and knowledge to make a more informed choice about the officers.

Also, what's the difference between the needs of new members and the needs of existing members? There isn't a national organization or levels of membership or any of that--what do new members need that doesn't get addressed by having officers practicing good leadership skills?
 

spshu

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Validated User
#6
In a larger club, you might have a New Member Liason, who is responsible for helping new members get acquainted, but really, shouldn't the whole club be doing this? No, the new members don't have a say in the leadership on this schedule, but they also don't know much about the system yet or how things need to get done. And if they really like the club enough, they'll be around for the next election, when they'll have the experience and knowledge to make a more informed choice about the officers.

Also, what's the difference between the needs of new members and the needs of existing members? There isn't a national organization or levels of membership or any of that--what do new members need that doesn't get addressed by having officers practicing good leadership skills?
There is not a difference in the needs of the new members and the needs of the existing members. They both need/should have a say in the leadership. The greater the say in the leadership the greater the buy in when the leader(s) make a decision particularily the tough ones.

Granted the new members may not know much about the club, but so might some of the pre-existing members not care much about the interworking of the club they may just want to play. Who might they vote for the candidate most qualified or their buddy?

I see your side, the new members whether transfer students, freshmen or existing students (that newly found out or now have availability for meetings) may not know much about the interworkings of the group. They may just vote for the slick talker instead of the get-it-doners.

On the other hand, what if the new members (do to good marketing) end up out numbering the existing members? "We did not elect you?" Could cause problems.
 
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