Revisiting the Election Process

I just re-read the blog entry I wrote back in June about the election process. Having now gone through it from a candidate’s perspective, I thought I’d share some of my observations on what seemed to match up with my initial theories.  Three reasons for low turnout matched up with my original theories; one was one that I hadn’t really considered in detail.

1) Timing of the election. I spent quite a bit of my non-jumping time at the Z-Hills Holiday Boogie this past week walking around asking USPA members if they had voted yet. Many said “Oh yeah, I’m planning to do that” but seemed unaware (or had forgotten) that the deadline was imminent and that the ballots were due before the end of the boogie. I’d say half of the votes I collected fell into that category – people who had just let the deadline slip by them (though since I was FedExing ballots in, they were able to participate at the last minute).

2) Awareness of the rules. One interesting sub-set of potential voters I talked to at Z-Hills was USPA members who are from other countries.  More than once, I heard from international members who (for some reason) believed that they couldn’t vote in the election.  Based on the 2007 member survey, 11% of USPA members are foreign, and I wonder how many are missing out on their chance to vote because they aren’t aware of the rules?

3) Ballot problems/invalid ballots. I had to hand back probably 1/4 of the ballots I collected to let them know they’d forgotten to sign the ballot.  Now, some of this could be a function of the setting – people were quickly filling out the ballots at the dropzone rather than taking time to carefully review them, but if those ballots hadn’t been looked at by someone else, they would have ended up invalid.

4) Lack of quality information/”connection” with the candidates.  Throughout the election process, at several different DZs, I had people tell me that I was the only candidate who had spoken with them about the election and shared my views on why I was running.  Perhaps they’d read their Parachutist, but didn’t feel like they got enough info to truly tell the candidates apart.

I’m not sure how best to solve this last issue.  The information that’s in Parachutist is all that’s available for some candidates, for others, there’s lots to be found in various places online, or through just asking around.  But ultimately, the decision to vote or not vote for someone often comes down to “well, so-and-so said Candidate X is cool so I guess I’ll vote for him/her” or “my friend told me Candidate Y is an asshole so I’m not going to vote for him/her.”

Regional director candidates have a bit of an easier time of it as they could (depending on the region) make it a point to visit all of the area dropzones during the election season.  Of course, I only heard about one candidate who does this; many other voters said they’d never seen or heard from their regional director.  National director candidates have to be a bit more creative to get information out there, but there are ways.  Still, a lot of the decision comes down to imperfect / limited information, and because of that many people choose not to vote.   Several people I asked to vote for me voted only for me because they didn’t feel they knew enough about other candidates to make a decision, but because I had spoken with them in person about my candidacy, they were willing to support me.

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