By Peter Oskin, Serra High School AR
In the United States 2012 Presidential election about 58% of the voting population turned out to cast their ballot.
In the Spring 2013 SDEA runoff election?
Which, arguably, has a greater direct impact on the lives of SDEA members? Voting for President? Or voting for people who influence your salary, benefits, and workplace environment?
The motto of our union is ‘Together we are stronger’, yet a 10% member voting participation shows that this sense of togetherness is sorely lacking. Think about it: we are a 7000 (roughly) member union, yet 700 of us were involved in making decisions regarding our representation in the last election!
There are many reasons for the lack of voter turnout, including one that sorely sticks out: our process of voting is just… well, cumbersome. It’s 2013, yet we are still using scantrons and mail-in ballots! Consider the process a member must go through to vote:
- SDEA ballot arrives in your mailbox. You hope that it’s correctly printed (this is hard sometimes)
- Open up ballot, sort through paperwork
- Find #2 pencil
- Look at candidate statements
- Figure out what bubble (out of 50!) you are actually supposed to fill
- Get ballot ready for mailing, including signing and putting your employee ID number and signature on the correct envelope
- Finally you must remember to put your ballot into the mail and hope it gets to SDEA on time
This isn’t rocket science, but teachers are busy people -it’s way too easy to put that ballot aside and forget about or lose it. A 10% voter turnout rate indicates that this is happening far too often. The process is creaky and in need of serious reform.
At the November 13th Rep. Council we took the first step in that reform. It was a close vote, but the Rep. Council passed a resolution directing the SDEA Elections Committee and Board to pick a vendor that will provide online voting to membership for future elections, beginning with the spring 2014 election of our next President.
The resolution, as approved:
Election Process Reform
The SDEA elections process is inefficient and costly, resulting in poor turnout at an excessively high financial cost to our union, as evidenced by a series of ballot mistakes and a continuing low return rate of ballots by members.
Therefore be it resolved:
That the Rep Council directs the SDEA Board to work with the Elections Committee to research and recommend a new method for SDEA elections that is both cost effective and easy for membership to use.
Further, this method must allow members to vote via internet, and have strict and open accountability measures.
Also, a recommendation of a vendor must be made by the February 19th, 2014 Rep Council Meeting, with a vote to affirm or deny that recommendation by Rep Council at that same meeting.
Finally, with timely approval by the Rep Council, the new election system must be ready to use in time for the spring election of the next SDEA president.
Research of vendors and request for proposals must commence immediately following approval of this resolution.
Hopefully, implementation of this resolution by SDEA will be straightforward. CTA has already approved 7 vendors that have the ability to provide online voting to our membership. The Board and Elections Committee just needs to pick one! In fact, our current ballot printer also does online voting. While costs of moving online are unknown, and a concern, they will hopefully be in line with our current costs (mailing of the ballots to our homes alone costs over $3000- that does not include the costs of printing or mailing the ballots back). Also, the resolution requires a final vote by the Rep Council in February; conceivably if cost is a serious issue the new system will not be approved.
The debate regarding this resolution was spirited. As author of the resolution my intent was simple: if voting is made easier, more SDEA members will have a tendency to vote. Some concerns raised were reasonable, such as cost, but others were surprising. These included other council members stating that online voting was already being researched by the board, and that this resolution would rush the process. Such arguments, to me, are invalid -if we know the current system is not working, why are we not actively and openly trying to fix it? I have not heard one word about reform for years.
Many members and supporters of the Breakfast Club caucus spoke in support of the resolution, and provided pointed arguments against criticism and against a hostile amendment that would have watered down the resolution’s effectiveness.
Ultimately, as previously stated, the resolution passed. Hopefully by spring we will have the option of either voting on paper or online. While a small change, it should improve voter participation and active involvement in SDEA -especially important when we are going to be negotiating a new contract. Your voice does matter, and if you don’t let your opinion be known then the issues you care about won’t be addressed!