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WBAI elections primer

From http://wbai.org and the upcoming WBAI fall 2003 folio


Elections Come to WBAI/Pacifica -- Exercise Your Right to Vote!

by L. Joy Williams, WBAI Local Election Supervisor

Elections ABCs

The December 2001 settlement of lawsuits against the former Pacifica Board of Directors called for new bylaws that will enfranchise listener-sponsors and staff in the selection of the network’s governance boards and will share decision-making between the Pacifica National Board (PNB) and Local Station Boards (LSBs) (see box: Duties of LSBs.). At press time, it appears that listener-sponsors at each of the five Pacifica stations will elect 18 Delegates, and nonmanagement staff members (paid and unpaid) will elect six Delegates to the LSB for three-year terms. In turn, each LSB will annually elect four of its members to serve concurrently as Directors of the PNB. The PNB will then choose two additional members from nominees of Pacifica affiliates (community and college stations that carry Pacifica programming).

Pacifica’s national election supervisor has appointed me, with the approval of the executive director, to oversee all aspects of campaigning and voting at WBAI and to assemble an Election Committee that will set up and manage the machinery for a successful LSB election (see box: The Election Committee Needs You).

Although the precise schedule is not yet set, elections will commence shortly (go to www.wbai.org and stay tuned for details). The success of the elections will depend upon strong local Election Committees, diverse candidates adhering to fair and respectful campaigning, and you the voter informing yourself on the issues and casting your ballot. The election cycle is approximately three months, beginning with a two-month nominations period followed by over a month of campaigning (including "meet the candidates" forums at several locations around the WBAI signal area). Each voter will have 30 days to cast a ballot via mail or at a secure online site. At least 10 percent of eligible voters must vote for the elections to be valid.

You the Voter

You can vote as a listener-sponsor if you meet any of the following criteria prior to the "record date" of 45 days before ballots are mailed out:

  • you contributed at least $25 to the station in the past year; or
  • you are part of a couple that contributed at least $50 and gave both names to WBAI in the past year; or
  • you volunteered at least three hours for WBAI in the past year; or
  • if you can’t contribute $25 or three hours of volunteer work, you can apply for a hardship waiver, available on a case by case basis.

All qualified voters will receive an election packet by mail 30 days before ballots are due, with candidates’ statements, a paper ballot, instructions for voting online, and a list of "WBAI-friendly sites" -- libraries, community centers, and businesses that have agreed to provide free Internet access to WBAI listeners for obtaining election information or casting an online ballot. As soon as nominations open, announcements will be made on the air and on the Elections web page at www.wbai.org to keep you current on the election process.

You the Candidate

Candidates must be eligible to vote, submit a nomination petition signed by at least 15 other eligible voters, complete a candidate nomination packet, and participate in at least part of the campaign. You will be able to pick up a nomination packet from the station, download it from the Elections web page, or request one by mail by calling the Elections hotline at 212-209-2976. Please consider running: to have a diverse board, we need a diverse candidate pool.

Choice Voting

Pacifica has chosen a system of proportional representation called Choice Voting because it provides fairness to both minority and majority populations, promotes competition, and discourages negative campaigns. Voters rank candidates in their order of preference, putting a "1" by their first choice, a "2" by their second choice, and so on. Winners are those whose vote total reaches a numerical threshold determined by dividing the votes cast by the number of seats. After "first choice" votes have been counted, candidates who reach the winning threshold are elected.

To maximize the number of voters who help elect someone, "surplus" votes for the first set of winning candidates are transferred to remaining candidates according to voters' next-choice preferences. After transferring surplus ballots until no remaining candidate has obtained the winning threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. All of his/her ballots are distributed upwards among remaining candidates according to voters' next-choice preferences. This process continues until all seats are filled.

Fair Elections

The election will be free of negative campaigning. All candidates must sign a fair campaign pledge agreeing to treat others with respect and follow the election ground rules, including:

  • All candidates shall have equal airtime, including time for a statement and a question-and-answer period with call-in listeners.
  • Neither station management nor staff (paid or unpaid) may use or permit the use of airtime to campaign for or against any candidate.
  • The PNB, the LSBs, and their committees may not endorse any candidate(s).
  • If any provision is violated, the local and national election supervisors will choose a remedy, up to and including disqualifying candidate(s) or suspending offending staff (paid or unpaid) from the air for the remainder of the election period.

For More Information

Election information, including a link to the new bylaws, will be posted on the Elections web page at the WBAI website, www.wbai.org, and will be available in print form at the station and at "WBAI-friendly sites." You can sign up for the WBAI Election Committee listserv (email list) by emailing WBAI-EC-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. This listserv is strictly for the election process; conversations about any other topic will not be entertained.

I look forward to working with some of you, hearing from a few of you, and knowing that most of you cast a ballot to elect your new station board. You can reach me directly at joywilliams@att.net, or leave a message on the Elections hotline at 212-209-2976. Or you can write to me c/o WBAI, 120 Wall St., 10th Floor, New York, NY 10005.


(elected bodies that will replace current Local Advisory Boards)

  • Approve the station's budget and report quarterly on actual income and expenditures
  • Propose candidates to be hired as the station's General Manager and Program Director
  • Review annually the General Manager's and Program Director's performance
  • Assist in station fundraising
  • Ensure that the station works diligently toward diverse staffing and a discrimination-free atmosphere in the workplace
  • Arrange for community needs assessments
  • Reach out actively to underrepresented communities
  • Ensure that (as the bylaws state) "station programming fulfills the purposes of the Foundation and is responsive to the diverse needs of the listeners (demographic) and communities (geographic) served by the station."


Help make the election process credible, open to all, simple, and clear. I need many, many volunteers to assist with "meet the candidates" nights, mailings, ballot counting, locating "WBAI-friendly sites," and administrative support.

In addition, if you have 10 to 12 hours per week, consider filling one of these positions on the Election Committee:

  • Station Contact: Acts as liaison between the Election Committee and station management and staff for on-air campaign events and election publicity
  • Election Consultant: Researches online ballot companies and printers for ballot materials, ensures that ballot design is workable, develops PIN codes, coordinates ballot count
  • Event Organizer: Assists election supervisor in the development of campaign events
  • Graphic Designer: Designs the ballots and all event announcements
  • Database Coordinator: Works with the database manager and the election supervisor to build the voter list, confirm candidates, assist with mailings, and confirm voter eligibility
  • Website Coordinator: Works with station’s Website staff to develop and maintain the Election web page and arrange online voting.

Sign up on the WBAI Election Committee listserv by sending an email to

Advisory: You may not serve on the Election Committee if you are a candidate.

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