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proposed elections procedures
Frequently Asked Questions about
proposed WBAI Elections procedures 8-4-01


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT WBAI ELECTIONS
A Guide to the Proposed Election Procedures for the WBAI Station Board

August 4, 2001

Following are questions and answers about the Election Procedures being circulated in draft form for public comment by the Concerned Friends of WBAI Elections Committee. Article and Section numbers throughout refer to the proposed Election Procedures. The most up-to-date version of the draft can always be obtained at http://www.wbai.net/elections.html

Elections Committee welcomes your suggestions to improve the Election Procedures. Please send them to elections@wbai.net ; post them on the WBAI Elections list, located at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WBAIelections; or send them via postal mail to:

Elections Committee
Columbia U. Station
PO Box 250816
New York, NY 10025.
Please include your name along with comments so that you may be credited for your contribution in the final version of the Election Procedures.

OR... fill out the ONLINE FEEDBACK FORM at the bottom of this page.

Questions answered in this document are:

  1. Why should WBAI listeners elect the Local Advisory Board?
  2. How many seats will be on the Station Board?
  3. What powers will the Station Board have?
  4. Will the elected board represent the diversity of WBAI?
  5. Who can vote for the Station Board?
  6. Who can run for the Station Board?
  7. Will the election be fair for all candidates and voters?
  8. Who will carry out the election?
  9. How will we find out about the candidates?
  10. How long will the election process take?
  11. What if we do not have access to the station list?
  12. What if we don't like the Station Board that gets elected?
  13. Will there be term limits?
  14. How often will elections happen?
  15. What if there is a problem with the procedures themselves?

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  1. WHY SHOULD WBAI LISTENERS ELECT THE LOCAL ADVISORY BOARD?

The reasons are found in the Preamble of the Election Procedures:

"As a number of lawsuits against the hostile Board majority proceed toward conclusion, it will not be sufficient simply to replace the individuals at the top of Pacifica's power structure with others who pledge to do a better job. We who love, value, and depend upon Pacifica as much as it depends upon us must do everything in our power to ensure that such a transgression never occurs again.

"At this time in Pacifica's history, it is necessary to build democratic accountability and transparency into the governing structure of foundation from the bottom up, from the local to national, from the hitherto voiceless listeners up to the powerful members of the foundations' Board of Directors, and to entrust the ultimate responsibility for protecting Pacifica's vital founding principles to the network's many thousands of loyal listeners.

"These Election Procedures describe a method for conducting regular, democratic elections for all Listener and Staff seats on the WBAI Local Advisory Board and reconstituting it as a more powerful Station Board, representative of the needs of the WBAI community. Granting listeners the power to vote in the reconstruction and protection of WBAI and Pacifica is a crucial first step toward true empowerment and democracy in the network."

  2. HOW MANY SEATS WILL BE ON THE STATION BOARD?

The Board will have 21 total seats; 17 listener seats, 4 staff seats (2 paid staff, 2 unpaid staff). (Article I, Section 2)

  3. WHAT POWERS WILL THE STATION BOARD HAVE?

The elected WBAI Station Board will take over from the current LAB within one month of the first election and will have all the powers of the current LAB in addition to any powers granted by future revisions of Pacifica and LAB/Board by-laws (Article I, Sections 1,5).

  4. WILL THE ELECTED STATION BOARD REPRESENT THE DIVERSITY OF WBAI?

The Election Coordinator and Election Committee will strive to the best of their ability to ensure, through outreach efforts and the mobilization of as many progressive groups as possible to aid in the process, a slate of candidates representing the diversity of the WBAI listening audience with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, listener-area geography, and class (Article II, Section 4.)

The election will employ Choice Voting, a form of proportional representation voting in which voters rank the candidates in order of their preference (Article III, Section 4 and explained in detail in Appendix I.) Choice Voting is designed for an election of multiple-seat, at-large bodies such as the Station Board will be, and generally results in a much more diverse and representative body being elected than in the "winner-take-all" voting system currently used across most of the United States. During the progressive era of the early twentieth century, Choice Voting was used for the election of many city councils across the U.S., including New York, where it was used from the late 1930's to the mid 1940's and resulted in the election of unprecedented numbers of African Americans and leftists. Choice Voting is still used to elect the City Council in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where red-baiting and racist referendums did not succeed in overturning it as they did in New York. Choice Voting is currently used for election of NYC School Boards.

  5. WHO CAN VOTE FOR THE STATION BOARD?

Listeners will vote for listener seats, unpaid staff for unpaid staff seats and paid staff for paid staff seats (Article III.) The current LAB has between 12 and 24 seats, one of which is for paid staff and one for unpaid staff. Staff seats on the LAB have always been directly elected by the staff, but the 10-22 "community" seats are currently not elected by WBAI listeners.

To qualify as a voter you must reside, work, or attend school in the WBAI signal area (Article IV, Section 1.) Voters for listener seats, in addition to fulfilling the previous requirement must also fall into one of the following six categories (see further explanation in Article IV, Section 2):

  1. Subscribing Listener (has donated at subscription level or higher in previous 3 yrs)
  2. Volunteer Listener (has volunteered at the station for 3 hrs in previous 5 yrs)
  3. Young Adult Listener (under 21 yrs of age)
  4. Low-Income Listener (unable to donate money or time to station)
  5. Boycotting/Protesting Listener (first election only)
  6. Former Subscribing Listener (has donated in previous 10 yrs, first election only)
Voters for unpaid or paid staff seats must be current employees of the station, except in the first election, where staff members terminated between December 22, 2000 and the close of the nomination period (i.e. the "fired and banned") may also vote (Article IV, Sections 3,4.)

  6. WHO CAN RUN FOR THE STATION BOARD?

Any listener voter can run for a listener seat, and any staff voter can run for a staff seat. Staff candidates must merely announce their candidacy to the Election Committee (extension of current staff practice), but listener candidates must also obtain signatures of twenty qualified listener voters supporting their nomination in order to appear on the ballot (Article V, Section 2). Current LAB members who have served for less than three years are encouraged to run for the Board and may be re-elected to the Board for a total of six years as an elected member of the Board. Current LAB members who have served less than six years but more than three may run for the Board but may not be re-elected to a second term (Article V, Section 3.)

  7. WILL THE ELECTION BE FAIR FOR ALL CANDIDATES AND VOTERS?

In order to level the playing field for all candidates, there will be a Campaign Spending Limit set by the Election Committee. The limit will be sufficient to cover leaflets, buttons, and the like. All candidates will sign a campaign pledge not to spend more than the Spending Limit. Sufficient funds will be distributed to any candidate who cannot afford the amount of the Spending Limit, in order to ensure that the election does not discriminate on the basis of class (Article VII, Section 7.)

Station staff won't be able to endorse particular candidates on the air or invite a candidate on the air outside of several specified on-air candidate forums, which all candidates will participate in (Article VII, Sections 2,3) The following will be prohibited, as entities, from endorsing individual candidates for the Board: station staff, the current WBAI LAB, any group or organization involved in the struggle to reclaim Pacifica locally or nationally (Article VII, Section 2.)

The Election Committee will make sure that campaign materials of all types, including candidate nomination sheets, candidate questionnaires, candidate statements and ballots, are available in both English- and Spanish-language versions, and in as many additional languages as is feasible (Article VIII, Section 3A.)

Neither members of the Election Committee nor the Election Coordinator will be paid for services (Article II, Section 5). Members of the Election Committee may not run for the Board nor endorse any candidate either individually or as a body (Article II, Section 2B.) The Election Coordinator will not have any prior affiliation with WBAI or Pacifica (Article II, Section 3). The printing and counting of the ballots will be carried out by an organization or firm with experience in these activities and not previously affiliated with the station, Pacifica, the LAB, or the Election Committee, and the entire process will be overseen by representatives of the WBAI community (Article VIII, Section 2).

  8. WHO WILL CARRY OUT THE ELECTION?

Implementation and protection of the Election Procedures will be the duty of a WBAI Station Board Election Committee working with an Election Coordinator whom the committee appoints (Article II). This committee will have regular, public meetings and will make minutes of its meetings publicly available (Article II, Section 2.) Any voter for the Board can become a voting member of the Election Committee. Many standing rules of the Election Committee (Rules of Voting Memberships, Officers, Meeting Procedures) are found in Appendix II.

  9. HOW WILL WE FIND OUT ABOUT THE CANDIDATES?

Candidate statements and answers to a set of questions about their candidacy will be mailed to all registered voters along with their ballots (Article VII, Section 6). Any community group or organization can host forums, provided they invite all candidates, and such forums will most likely be very important (Article VII, Section 4.) If the station staff is cooperative with the election (a big if whether or not Utrice Leid is still in power at the time of the election) there will be several on-air forums to which all candidates are invited to discuss their reasons for seeking election to the Board (Article VII, Section 3.) Keep in mind that at KPFA, where the management was theoretically friendly, only about 30 minutes of airtime was devoted to publicizing the election live. Sound carts suggesting that listeners register to vote were played on occasion. Each candidate got about 2 minutes to speak live in on-air forums. In other words, most publicity for the candidates came from the campaign statements sent with the ballots. WBAI can do better than this.

  10. HOW LONG WILL THE ELECTION PROCESS TAKE?

There will be thirty-day Nomination Period during which candidates will gather the required number of signatures of qualified voters to appear on the ballot (Article VI), followed a week later by a forty-five day Campaigning Period (Article VII), and finally by a thirty-day Election Period, during which voters will mail back their ballots. At the conclusion of the Election Period, ballots will be counted. Then the current LAB will validate the election and the results will be announced (Article VIII).

  11. WHAT IF WE DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE STATION LIST?

There are roughly 200,000 WBAI listeners, but only about 17,500 paying subscribers. The Election Procedures, in their current form, aim to empower as many WBAI listeners as possible to vote for the Board.

Holding an election without being able to mail ballots to the entire WBAI subscriber list would be more difficult, but would certainly be possible with sufficient outreach efforts in the coming months by the Election Committee in conjunction with as many groups as possible in the WBAI signal area (Article VIII, Section 5B). The Station List is no magic bullet either, because it does not include volunteer listeners, young adult and low-income listeners (whose income is insufficient to contribute to the station), and boycotting/protesting listeners who have never subscribed. Voters in these groups would still have to be signed up through outreach efforts of the Election Committee in conjunction with area groups (Article VIII, Section 5B).

  12. WHAT IF WE DON'T LIKE THE STATION BOARD THAT GETS ELECTED?

The Board, in its entirety, may be recalled by the voters through an initiative process called a Recall Referendum. Any voter or voters in the previous election may collect signatures of other qualified voters to force a Recall Referendum. If the signatures collected total at least fifteen percent (15%) of the total votes cast in the previous Board election, a Recall Referendum will be held. If enough signatures are collected, a ballot will be mailed to every qualified voter asking whether he or she wants a new election of the Board immediately or wants the Board to be allowed to continue its term. If a majority of voters want a Recall then a new election of the entire Board will be held within ninety days (Article X.)

  13. WILL THERE BE TERM LIMITS?

An elected term on the Board will be 3 years (same as current terms of appointment for the LAB) with possibility of re-election for one additional term, either consecutive or non-consecutive (i.e. term limit of 6 years) (Article I, Section 3). Term limits promote community involvement and dialogue by preventing the Board from becoming a perpetuating entity and ensuring that new voices of the WBAI community will be continually sought to represent it.

  14. HOW OFTEN WILL ELECTIONS HAPPEN?

An election will happen every year, with 1/3 of board standing for election each year. The first Board, once elected, will determine which elected members will receive one-, two-, and three-year terms in order to implement annual staggered elections (Article I, Section 4A,B). Staggered elections will both empower the listening community by its annual involvement in the election process and provide a deterrent to a possible sweep of the Board by hostile forces in the future (the most powerful remedy for such a sweep, though, will be the recall mechanism - see below.)

  15. WHAT IF THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE PROCEDURES THEMSELVES?

The Election Procedures, once ratified by the current LAB, will take effect and will remain in force indefinitely. However, the procedures may be modified by amendments of two-thirds of the Election Committee (prior to the first election) or the Station Board (after the first election), with each body having the ability to veto any amendment made by the other (Article XI.)

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If you have not already signed up to receive a ballot in the election
[ you may sign up on-line at the elections page of www.wbai.net]
please send your name, address, phone number and email address to:

Elections Committee
Columbia U. Station
PO Box 250816
New York, NY 10025
or email the information to elections@wbai.net. Your name and information will be used for no purpose other than to keep you informed about the election and to mail you election materials including your ballot.

 
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