UU Election Peculiarities

Back in 1989 I was a high school sophomore seeking to be on the Pacific Northwest District Youth-Adult Committee.  You got "elected" if the current body of 7 leaders "voted" you in.  Boy was it tight.  When I was on the committee, at times it felt like being on the Supreme Court, with a lot of 4-3 decisions, and massaging the small group for consensus.  It was a frustrating way to select leadership though, it felt like an insiders club, and effectively it was.  We changed to a public election process and an annual "elections conference", similar to the Pacific Central District, and this continues to this day.

In my experience with UU organizations, I’ve also experienced this attitude and behavior of conducting secret elections, secret ballot and results to be specific.   While balloting, which began in C*UUYAN in 1998 for officers, is much more humane than consensus (imagine, consensus process for each elected candidate position), it continued to be secret balloting, as it is in YRUU and several other organizations, until 2005. 

Why the secret ballots?  I’ve heard folks say the count "doesn’t matter", that they don’t want people to "feel bad", and that what is important is to "keep the peace".  It seems though that beyond the surface, it is a controlling, oppressive dynamic.  Not only is it undemocratic, not transparent, and open to fraud, but it has a patronizing effect on the candidates.  Do they need to be protected from the disappointment of an open election?  Do we feel the need to manipulate their feelings to keep them "happy"?  It seems that we struggle to provide the critical ministry to people when they stumble, fail to realize a dream, fall short of a personal expectation, feel let down.  This is disappointing to me, this is what a religious community, one based on the democratic principles, should be able to do well.


3 responses to “UU Election Peculiarities

  1. funny, this year at concentric after being counted, the ballots got left out on the table. when i was cleaning up the main hall the next day i was quite torn as to whether i should save them or toss them.
    before they got counted Mtino made sure to let people know where he would be if they wanted to come watch. so in C*UUYAN anyway, i think it’s moving more to an anonymous voting procedure, rather than totally secret.

    i ended up tossing them after rifling through the bowl, mostly because i didn’t know what best to do with them. also because 3 of 5 positions had uncontested elections, i don’t think those will need to be recounted!

  2. You’re saying that the final vote totals are not reported, right? People cast their ballots in secret, but never hear how many votes went to which candidate.

    It’s been a long time since I was involved in C*UUYAN, and I seem to recall a maddening sort of consensus process back when I was elected to its steering committee in the mid-’90s.

  3. It is appropriate to destroy ballots after the results have been authenticated/certified. The results for C*UUYAN should be posted publicly, this was a practice started last year.

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