SPAH’s latest election–the first in the organization’s history in which there was more than one candidate for president–ended on July 1. But the questions go on. JP Pagan, writing for…

SPAH’s latest election–the first in the organization’s history in which there was more than one candidate for president–ended on July 1. But the questions go on.

JP Pagan, writing for SPAH, posted this message to the Harp-L list on July 3:
The SPAH 2012 Election is over! Winslow Yerxa has been elected to serve as SPAH’s next president, beginning his term after the 2012 Convention. LJ Atkison will remain as SPAH’s vice president. This was a historic election, with two official presidential candidates–—a SPAH first–—and over 250 ballots cast—–a SPAH record. We would like to thank Bob Cohen and Warren Bee for running and we would especially like to thank all of the SPAH members who cast ballots. And don’t forget, members, this is not the end of your participation in SPAH’s future, only the beginning.

On July 5, I wrote the following to Harp-L:
JP:
1) What were the actual vote tallies for the candidates?
2) How do I, as a voter, know that my vote was counted?
3) Can you please tell us what measures were taken to preserve the integrity of the vote–e.g., who counted it, under what circumstances, how many ballots were rejected for various reasons, and how was the count validated?

There’s no information on SPAH’s site that describes any of the above, and I’d like to know. Anyone who’s been involved in counting votes for any election knows that transparency in the process matters.

As of today, there’s been no reply to that request. And that’s just wrong.

Perhaps it’s the novelty of actually having more than one candidate for a SPAH office that makes it difficult for the people administering the election to tell us how it was done. I’m sympathetic to a point, but as a SPAH member I want to know the answers to the three questions I posed to Pagan:

1) What were the actual vote tallies for the candidates?
2) How do I, as a voter, know that my vote was counted?
3) Can you please tell us what measures were taken to preserve the integrity of the vote–e.g., who counted it, under what circumstances, how many ballots were rejected for various reasons, and how was the count validated?

I’ll add a fourth question to the three above: where are the ballots that were cast, and are those ballots available for inspection by, say, the candidates, or the SPAH membership, or some other third party not connected to the current SPAH administration?

Please note: I’m not questioning anybody’s integrity. This is about the system, not the people involved. There’s plenty of potential for abuse in a system in which none of the above questions have answers. In a well-run system, there’s no question about the integrity of the election, because the procedures are in place to ensure that errors aren’t easily made. What were the procedures used to count the votes in this case?

It’s a new thing for SPAH to have more than one candidate for office, so perhaps the crew can be forgiven for not knowing how a vote is really run. They’re still having problems with that in a lot of new democracies. But it is absolutely unconscionable to announce simply that one candidate won, without providing any information on the vote itself.

Making the information requested above available should help to improve everyone’s confidence in the vote, and so confidence in future votes, higher levels of voter and candidate involvement, etc. And that’s what we want, right?

UPDATE: newly elected president Winslow Yerxa responded to my comments on July 6 as follows:

I’ve notified the election committee chair, JP Pagan, of this query and asked him to respond. I’d ask you to cut him a little slack; we’ve just had a mid-week national holiday right at the end of the vote count.

I can’t answer because as a candidate I’ve been completely hands off with the voting process, including recusing myself from any election-related decisions made in board meetings prior to the election. However, I believe that the answers will be quite satisfactory.

UPDATE: JP Pagan of SPAH replied in detail to my questions and addressed all my concerns head on in a message to the Harp-L list on July 7. I thank JP for his quick reply, and I for one have no further concerns about the integrity of SPAH’s election process.

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