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.