ala elections: thoughts, entreaties and warnings

Karen Schneider uploaded a picture of the postcard that ALA members willl be getting alerting them to the email that will be coming which gives them instructions for how to vote online. While I find this process cumbersome, the online voting has improved markedly in the past few years. It’s hard to get such a large bunch of non-techie people to do something online. And it’s very hard when those people are voting in different numbers and combinations of elections. Of course, if this were a Web 2.0 scenario, there would be a button on the main page of the ALA website that would say “You haven’t voted yet….” which would link directly to the balloting system and disappear once you had completed voting. Here are a few other thoughts I had about an online voting scenario in my dream world.

  • Maybe it would indicate your status if you were partiallly through voting.
  • There would be a way to get your voting password emailed to you by answering a security question online.
  • No one would even suggest that you get help with online voting via fax.
  • Candidates would campaign online and could embed URLs and photos in their profiles.
  • You would be able to sort candidates by state of residence, professional affiliation, gender, or other criteria.
  • Advocacy groups could link to profiles of their preferred candidates when picking their slates.
  • Bios would have realtime hit counts on pages.
  • You would be able to view your ballot and the candidate bios easily in separate tabs or panels of the same browser window.
  • Submitting and checking your ballots would be simple, requiring a click or at most two.
  • There would be a status page showing how many people had voted via electronic and paper ballots.
  • This page would be updated in real time and would be shown as a percentage of the eligible voters of ALA.
  • Election results would be available online as soon as polls had closed and paper ballots were tabulated.
  • Results would come with handy graphs showing percentages and total vote counts for every election, even the ones you didn’t vote in personally.
  • Results would link back to the candidate bios so you could learn about who was now in governance. Press releases anouncing winners of every election would be sent to appropriate media outlets. I could go on and on.

At some level I’m partial to the town meeting style of governance which should come as no surprise. I also know that it becomes impractical when dealing with groups the size of ALA. I just want the evolution of electronic elections at ALA to not come to a grinding halt just because we’ve got something online that works.

A membership dues increase is on the ballot, for example. There was a lot of discussion at Council meetings in Texas that Council needed to be “speaking with one voice” about the necessity of the 30% increase, to be phased in over three years. I think the idea of speaking with one voice on something we are all asked to vote on undermines the idea of why you have a representative democracy in the first place, but I’m touchy about money. At the same time, I understand why ALA needs more money. Please vote, and ask me or your favorite ALA representative if there’s something you don’t understand. You can even do it by fax.

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