An Interview With Committee Chair Doug Reynolds
In January, the SIOP Executive Board reviewed a proposal from the Elections Committee to refine several aspects of SIOP’s election procedures. A new set of committee policies were adopted. The following interview with Elections Committee Chair Doug Reynolds explains more about the background of the Board’s decision and provides an overview of the changes SIOP members will soon see.
What’s changing? There are a number of things that are changing. The new procedures include the following improvements:
- New flexibilities in the nominations process will allow members to amend their choices until the last day of the nominations period.
- The target number of slots on the ballot will be specified within the procedures.
- The elections committee will fill the ballot slots based on the number of nominations received. (This change was made in 2010, and we will continue the practice under the new procedures.)
- Candidate biographies and goal statements will be posted on a website that is available to the membership throughout the voting period.
- Voting will be conducted using a preferential voting process that allows for an instant runoff.
- Results of the voting will be posted on a website available to the membership. Candidates will be informed in advance of the election that the results will be posted.
When will this take effect? Actually, we implemented the policy immediately, for the APA representative election that is underway now. Not all parts of the policy apply to APA rep elections, but the pieces of this we could implement are already in place. For example, all the candidates were told that a condition of their running was to allow the results to be publicized. The rest of the changes will be in effect next fall with the regular SIOP election.
Are there more changes to come? I don’t view this as a closed issue; it should be an evolving process, but I do think we need to try these procedures for a cycle or two before we make more adjustments. The Elections Committee designed the changes we made this year to fit with what is allowed in our current bylaws. However, some additional changes that were discussed with the Board might require a bylaws change. If we wanted to make changes to the bylaws, it would require more input and a vote of the membership, so we would really want everyone to be informed and to carefully consider the implications before broader changes are made.
What does this mean for me? Really, the change that most members will notice is that when you vote next year you will be asked to rank the candidates you like through a preferential voting technique. Instead of the vote being all or nothing, you will be able to provide your opinion of each candidate through the ranking process as opposed to just having one choice for your favorite candidate for each seat.
How will the preferential voting technique work? Anyone who votes in the APA election will already be familiar with this method of preferential voting. It’s known as a “single transferable vote” method. It is a simple process where you rank candidates for an open position on the ballot based on your preferences. You can rank them all or just the ones you feel would be best. If your first choice does not get enough votes to win by a majority, your vote is transferred to your second choice. That way you still have a voice in the election because your other choices will be ranked and taken into consideration when choosing the winner. This process allows us to add more candidates to the ballot without spitting the votes into small groups.
Why are we making changes now? We’ve made several changes in recent years, so part of what we are doing is just documenting our processes. For example, in 2010 Ed Salas asked the Board to approve a rule for choosing candidates for the ballot based on the numbers of nominations they receive. This year, we expanded the ballot for just about every seat to include more candidates than we typically have. Throughout the elections process this year we—Eduardo Salas, Adrienne Colella [SIOP President], and I— revised the documentation for the process too, in hopes of improving the transparency of the process for future years.
The last couple of changes really came together following the last election, when I received a couple of requests for all the vote tallies, which have never been publicized by SIOP. I declined the request, and that upset a few people, but I still stand by that decision. However, I felt it was worth looking into this practice too to determine whether or not the results should be publicized in future elections. (For a full story, check out the April issue of TIP, available March 23.)
The Elections Committee met in early December to discuss a number of modifications to the elections process. We considered how we would design the process to emphasize a few principles that we felt are important. In particular, we thought that SIOP elections should be:
- Inclusive and encouraging of member participation in the nominations and voting process.
- Fair and impartial to individual candidates.
Really, the idea here is that SIOP is growing and our processes need to grow with us. Our past procedures were not well understood by most members, and they weren’t well publicized either. The approach worked fine when we were smaller, but it relies on trust over transparency. Now that we are bigger, there are folks that think the process is being manipulated somehow, and the lack of transparency only makes this perception worse. This is not the kind of issue that our Society should be dealing with, so our committee was well aligned on these changes. We are growing and changing as a society, and we felt that our election process needs to adapt too.