| proposed election procedures
Ghost of elections-future 7-15-01
Date: Sun Jul 15, 2001 1:24 am
Subject: Why have an Election Committee?
In recent days, a number of questions have been raised about the "WBAI Station Board Election Committee" ("Election Committee") referred to in the draft of the proposed WBAI Station Board Election Procedures. Below is my personal rationale for the existence of such a committee, not necessarily representative of all members of the CF of WBAI EC:
KPFA is currently having a hell of a time trying to hold a SECOND election a year after their historic first election in 2000 -- historic because it represented the first democratic election of any Pacifica board at the local or national level in the 51-year history of the foundation.
The reason they are having such a difficult time is because their election proposal failed to establish a structure to guarantee that there would be ongoing elections -- it only specified how to hold a first election.
As I see it, the key to ensuring that WBAI doesn't experience the same problem is to establish a perpetuating body -- an Election Committee -- complete with standing rules of membership, officers, meeting procedures, and any other standing rules we, the WBAI community, see fit for it to have. This committee would have one task - to ensure that a democratic election for the WBAI Station Board keeps being held year after year, decade after decade, as specified by the Election Procedures in whatever form they are eventually adopted. In other words, the Election Committee's function will be to protect the Election Procedures themselves on behalf of WBAI listeners in order to ensure that once democratically empowered the listeners do not become, again, disempowered at some point in the future.
Try, for a moment, to remove from your mind the names of anybody currently involved in this struggle at this point in WBAI history, and envision the WBAI of, let's say, two decades from now.
The year is 2021 and WBAI is about to have its 20th annual election of the Station Board.
Imagine that way back in 2001 all the critics did finally come to realize that the empowerment of Pacifica listeners as protectors of Pacifica's founding principles was, in fact, the ultimate answer to the network's problems. Imagine, as well, that the WBAI signal area held its first election (whenever it was exactly that they held it) followed by similar elections at WPFW, KPFT, and KPFK, that all the high-jackers were eventually driven off the board (was it the lawsuits that finally settled the matter, or did they cave before the trial - it's been a while and I can't recall), that the Pacifica and WBAI Station Board by-laws were rewritten to allow for either the election of national board members by Station Boards or directly by Pacifica's listeners (whichever it was they finally agreed on), that the CPB funding was finally rejected, and that the Pacifica Board of Directors was eventually repopulated by the diverse group of progressives everyone had envisioned back in those days…with me so far in this possible future?
Imagine that in 2021 the elections of Station Boards in the five signal areas continue, year after year, as they are supposed to. Here's how it happens:
An Election Committee meets regularly - let's say monthly - in the months between the annual Board elections. Between elections the committee's only job is to deal with various loose ends, or situations that arise, such as filling a vacancy (Article IX.) Its members are hardworking volunteers who feel it their duty to the station to ensure that the election happens every year. Are they the same types of people the members of the Concerned Friends of WBAI were back in the summer of 2001? Most likely not. (In fact some of those CF of WBAI EC members, if you recall, decided not to be members of the first Election Committee. A couple decided that they wanted to run for a seat on that historic first Board, and couldn't do so due to the "objectivity clause" -- Article II, Section 2B.) Others decided to devote more time to those other radical causes they had put on the shelf for a few months in order to make sure elections happened and that WBAI would continue to be the "voice of the voiceless" and a critical source of information for NY activists that it had been for three decades.)
No, most of the members of the EC two decades from now are probably the types of people who volunteer in polling places across America on Election Day or who regularly give blood. In 2021 the activists are either on the Board, out in the streets, or back behind the microphones where they belong.
Members of the Election Committee come and go, new officers get elected on a regular basis - the system keeps working because, with valuable input from the WBAI community, the CF of WBAI Elections Committee was able to set it up to work not only once but forever. Sure there are little changes made to the Election Procedures every couple years by Board. The Election Committee rarely disagrees with the Board's amendments and has only once mustered a three-quarters vote to override the Board's two-thirds vote (back in 2011 when a kooky bunch of Board members managed to convince enough other members that it would be better to use a "winner takes all" tabulation procedure than the Choice Voting procedure described in Appendix II. The EC, empowered as ultimate protectors of the Procedures, said "oh no, you don't!")
The Election Committee's job is much easier these days than it was in those first three or four elections. After years of outreach, the EC finally has a voter list containing a good portion of the 500,000+ estimated WBAI listeners, not only the 60,000+ listeners on the subscriber list (recall that progressive politics really took off after the market crash of 2003.) In fact, the station management helps with this process, having finally realized the benefits inherent therein. At pledge-drive time they ask new listeners to call in, even if they can't pledge for whatever reason, and to give their names and addresses in order to register to vote in the Board Election.
These days, the real work for the members of the EC begins a month or so before the Nomination Period, when they seek out and select an Election Coordinator for this year's election -- the Board is eternally grateful not to be required to perform the mundane task of seeking out this individual, leaving it more time to focus on programming and community issues year-round. Then the EC begins to publicize the election via on-air reminders in the form of carts. They solicit candidates to run, they remind new listeners to register and that sort of thing. They check to make sure every candidate is qualified under the provisions of Article V and check to make sure all the nominating signatures are of qualified listeners. They send every candidate a questionnaire and prepare candidate statement packets (Article VII, Section 6.) Then the EC works with station management to set up on-air forums for the candidates (Article VII, Section 3). Various community groups step forward offering to host forums (Art. VII, Sect. 4) and the EC helps these get off without a hitch. They check to make sure no candidate is violating the rules of the campaign (Article VII, passim) and the Election Coordinator disqualifies anyone who is.
After the Campaign Period comes the Election Period, when the ballots are received either in the mail or at drop-off locations, and then tabulated. The Election Coordinator announces the results on the air and via the WBAI website (which, by that point, has become a useful source of information), and the newly-elected Board members take their seats at the next meeting. All is well -- our "voice of the voiceless" is safe for another year.
Okay, enough of that. Back to 2001. If you want to make that future a reality then I would hope you see the important role of this Election Committee. If you have any suggestions for standing rules of that body or additional provisions for our draft of the Election Procedures to keep that EC of the future objective and focused on its job (i.e. ensuring that there be an election every year, as specified) then please offer them either on this list or via email to me, at bryanawilliams @yahoo.com. I will personally see to it that your suggestions are considered by the CF of WBAI Elections Committee before we make our recommendations for the Election Procedures final with formal discussion and a vote.
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