May 2nd, 2011
One Member, One Vote
By Sonny Albarado
My much-delayed report on the national board meeting of April 16.
At their annual spring session, at headquarters in Indianpolis, your SPJ leaders and national representatives rejected a Bylaws Committee recommendation regarding the “one member, one vote” option.
The committee had asked the board to let delegates at this fall’s national convention decide whether SPJ should start electing national officers by direct vote.
The board voted 15-8 against sending the committee proposal on to the delegates.
I voted with the majority. I explained during the discussion that, as a delegate, I had supported a similar proposal at the 2006 national convention in Chicago, which the delegates defeated. I added that I no longer supported the bylaws change.
In 2002, the convention delegates amended the bylaws to apportion delegate votes by chapter size. Since then, national officers have been elected by proportional representation. Chapters receive one vote for every 50 members or fraction of 50. A chapter with up to 50 members gets 1 vote; a chapter with 51-100 members gets 2 votes.
In its recommendation, the Bylaws Committee contended that the proportional system disenfranchises members who are not affiliated with a chapter. The committee also noted that a majority of SPJ members don’t go to the convention, cannot vote and have little incentive to engage with the society’s governance.
Several arguments put forward by the proposal’s opponents influenced my decision to vote against the Bylaw Committee’s recommendation.
Paraphrased, the arguments amount to this: Delegates to two national conventions have rejected the one-member, one-vote proposal twice. There has been no groundswell among members of fresh support for the idea, so there’s no reason to believe the proposal would be greeted differently this year. We believe that’s because most members are content to let their chapters’ delegates to the convention, their regional directors and other board members represent them.
At our April 16 meeting, board members debated the proposal for most of an hour, the longest and most passionately discussed item on a daylong agenda.
THE OTHER SHOE
If you haven’t heard by now, President-Elect Darcie Lunsford announced at the April board meeting that she will not assume the SPJ presidency at the national convention in New Orleans.
Darcie has taken a job outside of journalism and felt it would be best if SPJ’s president be a working journalist. She will serve out the remainder of her term, but her decision means that not only will delegates at the convention choose a secretary-treasurer and a president-elect, they will also elect a president.
Longtime SPJ’ers tell us this is a first. We’ve had presidents leave before their term expired and presidents-elect fill out the term, then serve their own. But this is the first time anyone can remember all three officer positions being open.
In any case, John Ensslin, the current secretary-treasurer, has announced his intention to run for president. And I have told colleagues that I will run for president-elect.
That means Region 12 will need a new director. Chapter representatives at the national convention will vote for the new director at the regional meeting tentatively set for the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 25.