The Election Process

Since I turned in my letter of intent, I’ve had a bit of time to peruse the copy of the USPA Governance Manual that I received back from USPA headquarters, so as my first topic… the Election Process itself. It sure seems like a simple process, on paper, but it’s pretty apparent that there are a few things broken with our board election process. The fundamental problem is that it’s still primarily on paper, but the interim problem is that our board keeps trying to put in fixes to those problems, some of which end up creating other, bigger problems. It’s probably time to just clean up this election process from the ground up. Here’s a few problems I’ve observed:

Ballot integrity:

This one was a hot topic at the February 2008 board meeting that I attended. It’s still being discussed on and by board members, and will be a topic at the July 2008 meeting. The ballots are currently distributed via Parachutist in the November issue. However, in past years, USPA has allowed photocopied ballots to be submitted, and in recent years has even provided a PDF version of the ballot on the web site.

I think both of these are a good thing, for a couple of reasons:

  1. It allows new or newly-renewing members to obtain a ballot. Sure, that’s a small number of people, but we don’t want to exclude people who join the association late in the year from participation in the democratic process.
  2. It allows active and aggressive campaigning by candidates, particularly non-incumbent candidates. Yes, of course, I have a self-interest in this but so should the board. They got elected once, but they need to stay elected (and the fact that 21 of 22 of them submitted letters of intent indicates that most of them want to stay elected).

This leads me to problem #2…

Voter Turnout:

10%? That’s abysmal, people. Seriously. A lot of us piss and moan about how the USPA board is out of touch with the members, but with voting numbers like that, can we expect much more? 10% is hardly “the will of the people.” It’s hardly a “mandate for action.”

I think there are a lot of things going on:

  1. TIming of the election. I’m not sure if there’s a better time to do it, but I remember last election cycle almost forgetting to send my ballot in because I got so busy with the holidays. In one sense, the end of the year is a good time because in many parts of the country, skydivers are off-season, and aren’t busy skydiving, and perhaps they can focus on the election. But history has proven that they don’t. And if part of the way that votes are energized is to get people when they come out to the dropzone, perhaps we need to think about moving the USPA elections to a time of year when the entire country is skydiving, not just the temperate climates.
  2. Apathy. I suspect this is the reason for the majority of USPA members. They just don’t care. There’s a vocal group on who are passionate about a few issues, but the majority of skydivers I see out at dropzones every weekend couldn’t even tell you what Skyride is, or haven’t been impacted by a decision (positive or negative) that the board has made … so they just pay their dues so they can jump. They couldn’t care less who is on the board.
  3. Difficulty. It’s really not that difficult, but for people who immediately recycle their Parachutist, if you’re already somewhat apathetic, the difficulty goes up by a factor of 10 if you then have to locate a ballot somewhere else. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were another way of voting? (More on that in a moment).
  4. Dissatisfaction with the candidates. Given that the regional director races are rarely contested (at least on the ballot), I could see this being an issue. If you look at the ballot and see the same name you’ve seen for years – particularly if it’s someone who has never come to visit your dropzone – I could see how it would be easy to be dissatisfied with the available candidates. In past elections, too, there have often been not many more than 8 available National Director candidates. This year, with 27 submitting letters of intent, that might change.
  5. Ballot problems/invalid ballots. This is just a theory, but I suspect that the voter turnout is artificially lowered because of ballots that are declared invalid because of missing signatures, or because of voting for too many candidates for national director, for missing other info (address, license info, etc.). I have no idea of the volume of these ballots, though. (Edited because I just found a reference in some old BOD meeting notes I was reviewing that said 60 out of 2357 in one election, so about 2.5%)

Which leads me to something I think can solve a lot of issues:

Electronic Voting

Many people wonder why we don’t have it already. I wonder that, myself (especially since, according to board minutes, USPA has been discussing it since at least 2002!). But, having sat through the February meeting discussion about the progress, I think it was the right decision not to push forward for this election. It would have been rushed and haphazard and, frankly, a disaster. I’ve worked in and around IT long enough to know that if you do it wrong the first time you’re ruining your chances to do it right for a long time.

That said, USPA needs to step up and find something that works, and soon, and that works in conjunction with paper voting because as much as some of us have embraced the online world, many will still happily cast a paper ballot and we need to allow for that as well.

More on the election process to come, but those are my initial thoughts on this June morning.


1 Response to “The Election Process”

  1. 1 Jerry Baumchen June 14, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Hi there,

    Good for you. That is a well thoughtout platform.

    Best of luck,


    PS) Have you given any thought as to who else YOU want to see on the BOD?

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