National Elections Supervisor Memo
TO: Pacifica Foundation Community
FROM: Kenny Mostern, National Elections Supervisor
RE: Change in Election Schedule
DATE: October 18, 2004
1. Change in Election Schedule
A fundamental flaw in the Pacifica Foundation bylaws concerns the extremely short turnaround time afforded between the date that the nomination period closes (September 25) and the dates that ballots must be mailed (October 15). This affords a period of only three weeks for the elections supervisors to produce and mail the ballots. Every effort has been made by the elections supervisors to ensure that the present election conform to the dates required in the bylaws.
However, a series of delays have beset the production and mailing of the ballots over the last two weeks. In addition, as a result of the fall fund drive, election related carts and other materials have seen delays in being aired at several Foundation radio stations. Finally, competition between our election and the US Presidential election has lessened our ability to promote the significance of the Foundation elections. For all these reasons, it is my considered opinion that we can assume that the Foundation election will not meet quorum at least one, and perhaps all five, Foundation radio stations by November 15.
Foundation Bylaws Section 4.5, "Elections Time Frame," states:
To be counted a ballot must be received on or before November 15th (the "Election Close Date"). All ballots shall be held sealed until the Election Close Date. If the required quorum of ballots is not received by the Elections Close Date, then the Elections Close Date shall be extended by two additional weeks.
It is not logistically feasible for us to wait until November 15 to confirm that we have failed to reach quorum. By that time spaces for ballot counting, travel arrangements for ballot counters, and the personal schedules of Election Supervisors will have long since been set. In anticipation of our failure to reach quorum by November 15, I am declaring the closing date of the election to be Monday, November 29, 2004.
2. New Schedule for Vote Counting
In accordance with the availability of TrueBallot, Inc., who are providing the optical scanning equipment for reading our ballots, the revised schedule for vote counting will be
Tuesday, November 30: WPFW Washington
Wednesday, December 1: WBAI New York
Friday, December 3: KPFT Houston
Saturday, December 4: KPFK Los Angeles
Monday, December 6: KPFA Berkeley
3. Why the Schedule in the Bylaws is Impossible to Meet
The bylaws of the Pacifica Foundation (Section 3.5) leave a three week window between the date that the nomination period closes, September 25, and the date that the ballots are to be mailed, October 15. Since I accepted this job in late May, I have discussed with Pacifica staff, the Local Elections Supervisors upon their being hired, and a variety of Foundation Board members and activists my doubts that it was possible to do all of the following in the amount of time given:
As someone who has sent out large mailings on numerous occasions in the past, it was my opinion from the start that this process should take at least four and more likely five weeks.
Two additional factors, also built into the bylaws, make this schedule especially absurd.
Side note: The Pacifica election that was conducted in late 2003 and early 2004 by Terry Boricious, which was using Court ordered dates for its scheduling, closed its nomination period on December 5, 2003, and it’s ballots were sent out on January 5, 2004. This is a period of 31 days, 10 days longer than the current elections. Additionally, printers and mail houses have essentially no work from December 26 – January 5. During the crunch days when the Pacifica election mailing had to go out, our mailing was the priority mailing for the print and mail houses being used.
In preparing this report, I asked Terry Boricious whether he felt that the 31 days he had was enough time to prepare and mail the ballots. He said "absolutely not." I can only say that triply for the 21 days I was given.
In my attempt to meet the impossible schedule of the bylaws as National Election Supervisor, I made two decisions that might – alongside the entire staff working 70+ hours the last week in September, which of course we did anyway – have gotten the mailing out on time.
It is a fact that had we mailed only the ballots, without the additional printing, folding, stapling, and stuffing required by the candidate statements, our ballots would have gone out on time. However, my solution to this problem was rejected by the Pacifica National Board and by the active membership, who believed that by not including the candidate statements with the mailing, we would make it less likely that voters would make an effort to become educated about the issues and vote. Whatever my personal feelings on the matter, I have no intention at this point in challenging the clear consensus of the Pacifica community on this question.
4. The Actual Production and Mailing Timeframe as of Today
As of today, the following have been printed and are at the mail house:
The printer has promised the remaining candidate statements no later than Wednesday. The ballots are now scheduled to be stuffed and mailed by the mail house between Wednesday, October 20 and Monday, October 25. They will be sent third class, which means that they should be received by all Pacifica members between November 1 and November 10. With the election close having been delayed until November 29, this will give all voters sufficient opportunity to select their favored candidates and return their ballots.
5. Other Needs That Are Being Met By the New Schedule
While it is the delay in the ballot production that is the immediate cause of the election extension, there are two other issues that Pacifica election officials have been facing which are solved by this extension:
6. Necessary Bylaws Changes
For the most part, I have been hesitant to suggest bylaws changes to the Election process while we are in the middle of that process. I had been planning to remain silent about my recommendations until my final report, at the close of the elections. However, the present memo cannot possibly be concluded without making the following comments:
Whatever else might be said about the writing of the present Pacifica bylaws, it is clear to me that they were not written by people who have experience with project management of print and mail jobs. For the second consecutive election, the National Election Supervisor has had tremendous difficulty producing the ballot mailing in the timeframe required. As such, the Pacifica National Board should give immediate consideration to the following bylaws changes:
In my view, this job can and should still be conducted over six and a half months. In particular, the 62 days currently afforded for the nomination period, from July 25 to September 25, can be cut. Essentially no nomination packets are turned in until the last week before the close of the nomination period, and the job of the election supervisors during this period is no more than a 10-15 hour a week job.
It is true that in the present elections cycle the Elections Supervisors were primarily concerned with distribution of information about the Elections, and with gathering and auditing the elections lists, during this time period. However, improved recordkeeping on the part of the Foundation would make possible substantially cutting the amount of gathering and auditing time required. And publicity about the election in no way requires a nine week nomination period. I therefore recommend that the nomination period for the election be cut by four weeks.
Taken as a whole, the above suggestions would result in an election period that has at its center three periods of exactly five weeks (35 days):
Using this pattern, the following schedule is one example of a workable schedule for the Pacifica National Elections, and should be considered as a bylaws amendment. It is offered as a possibility; other schedules could also be built.
January 1 National Election Supervisor starts work
February 15 Local Election Supervisors start work
March 1 Nomination period opens
April 4 Nomination period closes at 5PM
May 10 Ballots mailed by 5PM
June 14 Ballots must be received by 5PM
July 1 Date by which election must be counted and certified
July 15 Final reports of the election supervisors due
Please note that in this proposal, the period during which the election supervisors will be conducting their list audits is approximately March 15 to April 15, a period that overlaps between the nomination and ballot production periods.
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