November 5, 2012
"The ballot closed at 11:59 p.m. CDT on October 30": Acts of God and the results of AALL's membership bylaws amendment voting
By the slimmest of margins, 50.64 percent, 596 votes cast in favor, the membership categories and rights bylaws amendment passed. We will never know what the tally might have been if AALL had announced to members the voting deadline was being extended a week or two because of Sandy. It's not like anyone didn't know that this slow moving hurricane was going to leave a path of destruction from the Mid-Atlantic to the East Coast of the US.
As people prepared for Sandy at work and at home and then dealt with the devastating consequences in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and other states (including West Virginia, for example), I seriously doubt voting on the bylaws amendments was even on our rank-and file members' reprioritized to-do list. States of emergency were declared. Evaluation orders were issued. Disaster areas were announced by FEMA. Federal, state and county agencies and courts were closed. Commerce including the practice of law ceased. Thousands were displaced, millions lost power, and billions will be spent on recovery. None of this mattered to AALL which had sufficient warning that all hell would break loose.
I seriously doubt AALL even gave extending the deadline for e-voting a thought. My hunch is AALL's response to a time extension request would be the same as a similar severe weather-related member request. See Caren Biberman's August 30, 2011 LLB post, So what that there was a Hurricane and Earthquake--Adherence is More Important.
I received an email this evening telling me my request had been considered but that AALL would not change the deadline [for submitting annual meeting program proposals]. Why? What I was told was that they had been advertising the date since early June and they want to adhere to the date.
This is where passively watching the boob-tube does not result in a light bulb being turned on in AALL officialdom’s collective head. The only official Sandy-related message from AALL came by way of AALL's Open Members web community:
We extend our thoughts and prayers to all our friends and colleagues on the east coast who are being affected by the incoming storm. Stay safe as you ride out the storm.
Note well that this message was time-stamped October 29, 2012 11:20 AM; it was posted 36 hours before "[t]he ballot [for the bylaw amendments will be] closed at 11:59 p.m. CDT on October 30."
Members vote early, members vote mid-way, members vote just before the voting deadline is reached. Sure, I voted against the membership bylaws amendment and I voted early because at 60 years old I have no functional short-term memory left. But that is just me. I received several confidential emails midway and much later in the voting period that said in effect, “I finally had time to read about this.” Some indicated they voted "no"; some indicated they were going to vote “no.” I wonder if those members voted before Sandy because most of the emails came from east coast law firm librarians.
While opposed to the bylaws amendment, that's just my opinion. I am willing to accept a vote that gives all members the same opportunity to participate in AALL activities during the entire allotted time period. That did not happen. For the second time in a little of one year, AALL has failed to take into consideration "Acts of God" that would afford all members an opportunity to participate by extending deadlines because Acts of God made it impossible for many to do so.
The results BTW were reported on AALLNET on Oct. 31, 2012. I doubt I am the only person wondering when AALL members in the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast "read more about it."
I am not sour-grape-ing the results of the voting on the membership bylaws issue. Perhaps a do-over drafted membership amendment can be submitted to the E-Board. But what do you think are the chances of that happening? Remember how the Bylaws Committee’s initial draft was revised based on E-Board instructions?
Will AALL ever address the "Acts of God" issue? Fairness requires that all members has the same opportunity to participate; allotted time periods have to be extended when circumstances beyond the control of members make that impossible. Do note, had the membership bylaws vote rejected the amendment, I do believe AALL would have adhered to its deadline without any consideration for Acts of God negating equal opportunity for all members, including those in favor of the proposed membership bylaws changes. This is a case where blind adherence to a deadline fails to recognize the dependence on and easily adaptive and emergency-responsive benefits of 21st century web-based communications mediums for eVoting.
Because no contingency procedures are in place for electing national officers before voting is closed on November 30, 2012, to hell with viewing candidate bios and campaign statements. To hell with thinking about who you may want to vote into national leadership positions -- just vote and do it now if you want your voice heard.
Do note well, if AALL institutes some sort of contingency procedures for the election of national officers this year, it most certainly raises doubts about the bylaws voting results. AALL is between a rock and a hard place by issuing a knee-jerk, thoughtless, move onto the next membership request push-back response for exactly the same sort of issue presented to our association's leaders back in August of 2011. [JH]
11 votes' difference is what passed this bylaw change, Joe. Hardly a mandate for sweeping change in the actual constitution and focus of our association. I wish the executive board would consider this, but know they won't. Too bad. They could've had the moral high ground. But we will see what this change actually means, I suppose. I will be watching with great interest to see why they were in such an all-fired hurry to push this through.
Posted by: Betsy McKenzie | Nov 5, 2012 11:49:41 AM