How Does LNC Email Voting Work?

email-votingIf you are following the LNC email discussion archive, and I highly suggest you do, you may wonder how email voting works in that setting. Alicia Mattson provided this helpful summary:

I think this is an interesting detail for those following the list as to how the LNC email voting works (from Alicia Mattson):

Bylaws Article 13 authorizes our electronic mail ballots as follows:

Boards and committees may transact business by electronic mail. The chair or secretary shall send out electronic mail ballots on any question submitted by the chair or cosponsored by at least 1/5 of the members of the board or committee. The period for voting on a question shall remain open for ten days, unless all members have cast votes, or have stated an intention to abstain or be absent during the voting period, by electronic mail to the entire board or committee. Votes from alternates will be counted, in accordance with previously defined ranked order, in the absence of the corresponding committee member(s). The outcome of each motion shall be announced promptly and recorded in the minutes of the next meeting. The number of votes required for passage of any motion shall be the same as that required during a meeting. Motions dispensed through electronic mail ballots satisfy the requirement of giving previous notice.

We have 17 members of the board. The chair may submit an electronic mail ballot, or 1/5 of the members of the board (4) may co-sponsor an electronic mail ballot.

The policy manual has some other provisions regarding electronic mail ballots:

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Section 1.02.6 (regarding what is required to be in the minutes):

The following aspects of each mail ballot conducted since the prior meeting and reported by the Secretary at that meeting:
o the complete text of the motion,
o the names of the co-sponsors,
o the dates of the initiation and completion of the balloting, and
o the roll of those voting on the motion.

Section 1.04.1: Electronic mail ballots shall not include an accompanying argument for or against passage of the motion. Notification of an electronic mail ballot shall be made by the Secretary by electronic mail.

An LNC Member may change his or her vote on an electronic mail ballot, provided that the change is received by the Secretary by the deadline for return of ballots.

Section 2.07.4: The Secretary shall report the results of electronic mail ballots at each LNC meeting immediately following those ballots.
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I don’t wait until the next meeting to tell you how the vote turned out, as you might wonder from 2.07.4. I go ahead and report the results shortly after the voting period. They are also reported at the next LNC meeting.

When does voting end on an electronic mail ballot?

The bylaws say that the voting remains open for 10 days (unless shortened by everyone voting/abstaining early). What time of day on the final day does voting end? If I send it at 5:17pm, does it end at 5:17pm on the 10th day? Perhaps. Or is it the generic sense of the day, as in 11:59pm onThursday is still only one day after 9:15am on Wednesday? What has worked well in past terms is to give the most generous interpretation of the voting deadline of 11:59:59pm. Then members don’t have to remember what time of day each mail ballot ends. It always ends at midnight on the 10th day after it is sent.

Midnight in which time zone? In the past I have used Pacific Time Zone, as it is my time zone and it also gives a generous interpretation. It doesn’t matter to me all that much which one we pick, so long as we set a standard that everyone knows.

Consistency is the main desired feature. Unless the LNC feels inclined to say differently, I will continue to use Pacific Time Zone for the deadlines.

How do you co-sponsor an email ballot?

After someone sends a message to the list requesting co-sponsors, just reply to that message with a blatantly clear indication like “I will
co-sponsor this.” Don’t leave me guessing and interpreting with phrases like “This is a good idea” or “I support this”. I will not interpret such phrases as co-sponsorships. Use the magic word “co-sponsor” to remove all doubt.

How do you vote?

After a sufficient number of co-sponsors have been identified, I will send a message announcing the start of the 10-day voting period with all the necessary details.

I use a fixed pattern for the subject lines when I sent email ballots. That makes it easier to find them in your email history. I’ll number each email ballot with first the year, then a number indicating the year-to-date count of email ballots. The first email ballot of this year will be 2016-01, for example. The prior term’s LNC did not conduct any email ballots in 2016, so that numbering won’t duplicate anything from the past.

To vote, simply reply to that email thread with your vote.

Make your vote very clear, as in, “I vote yes”, or “I vote no”.

Do not use phrases that are subject to interpretation, or have
contingencies like “I vote yes if this means X but no if it means Y”. If you say “you have my support”, I do not interpret that as a vote, but as debate.

Please do not embed your vote inside of other extensive commentary, as that increases the chances that I will overlook your vote.

Please put your vote as the first thing in your email message. The cleanest option is to put nothing else in your message except for the vote, though if you must include debate on the motion to explain yourself, make your vote the first thing in the message.

This additional information on quorum issues was provided by Aaron Starr:

For deliberative bodies, the purpose of quorum is to ensure that the rights of those not present are protected. It keeps a smaller group who is not representative of the majority from adopting a motion that the majority would oppose (and not even be given the opportunity to debate). Quorum is not determined by the number who vote, it is determined by the number who are present and able to vote.

With email ballots, there is no deliberative body, no meeting and no quorum. There is no one present in a single room as a deliberative body, so it is not governed by the rules in our parliamentary authority, RONR. To make email ballots possible, our bylaws (and policy manual) had to establish special rules for how they work. Those rules governing email ballots are in place of those for an in person meeting. In effect, our rules governing email ballots presume that every voting member who is subscribed to our email list has been given notice of a motion and has an opportunity to vote.