Elections to BAA Council

Forums General Discussion Elections to BAA Council

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  • #618776
    Steve Holmes
    Participant

    The arrival of the voting information for the BAA Council elections 2023 confirmed my view, which has been developing over the last couple of years, that the Constitution is in serious need of an immediate update to ensure that if the number of persons nominated for a post or position is no more than the number required to fill that post or position then that person, or those persons, should be immediately deemed elected without a further vote being needed. This is almost invariably the rule for other societies and organisations to which I have belonged.

    For example, it is (if my memory serves me correctly) always the case that there is never more than one nomination for the President, the Treasurer and each of the Secretaries, and very often the case that there are just the correct number of nominations for Trustee. Holding an explicit vote for these positions is thus, in my opinion, pointless as each one of the nominees is going to be elected anyway. The only position for which there often needs to be an election is “member of Council”, and that’s fair enough as it is in this position that the influence of the membership as a whole in determining who they would like to represent them is most strongly felt.

    It would appear that the President implicitly supports my view (see bottom of first column of p207 of the current – August 2023 – volume of the Journal) as, by saying there are 7 candidates for the 5 elected places on Council, he is clearly assuming that all of the nominees for Trustee will be elected (and thus excluded from the vote for elected member) and so I would have thought that with this support “from the top” the proposed change to the Constitution would be passed with no problem.

    Finally though – the CV for “Vacant”, nominated as the Meetings Secretary, doesn’t appear to be included. Or, to put it another way, surely this line on the voting paper should not be present! (with an appropriate note in the Journal to explain what course of action is being taken to fill the post).

    Comments?

    • This topic was modified 9 months, 1 week ago by Steve Holmes.
    #618779
    Lars Lindhard
    Participant

    I agree.

    These “Sovjet-type” elections with only one candidate are pointless and waste of money.

    #618787
    James Lancashire
    Participant

    The vacancies for the Officer posts have always seemed to be this way in my 30 years a member. Many societies have a VP (or two) with one ‘on the way up’ getting their feet under the table, destined to be P, and one immediate past P ‘on the way down’ able to help as needed. These may be ex officio but the individuals will have arranged the spare time and commitments accordingly. There is an advantage to having some continuity with the T role I think.

    It is a sign of an active society that the candidate numbers for Council are greater than the number of positions available. So if an election is required for part of the board there will be no extra expense for the non-contested positions. Indeed there may be a legal requirement to show that there is a non-zero approval from the membership for each position.

    I don’t feel that Buggins’ Turn is a healthy situation and, indeed, any member should feel able to stand for election to provide their input and views. However, and controversially, I feel that decades’ stints may deprive an organisation of fresh blood and new ideas. As far as I can see, each observing section is fairly active and some rotation in duties could be encouraged? (Though these aren’t elected positions anyway.)

    #618788
    Steve Holmes
    Participant

    I think you might have mis-understood my objection to the current situation James. I have absolutely no objection to anyone being nominated for any post or position, and I would agree with you that to have many nominations is eminently desirable for a number of reasons. However, once all nominations are in, if there are no more nominees than the number of posts of that type to be elected (i.e. one for officers, five for Trustee and five for non-Trustee Council Member) then those nominees should simply be deemed elected without further ado because that is going to be the outcome anyway. To ask the members to indulge in a ballot whose outcome is already certain does seem rather pointless. And I am certainly not suggesting any sort of “Buggins Turn” i.e. merely arranging for some favoured candidate to step into a post.

    My suggestion does, of course, require an open and transparent nomination process, with the nominees published well in advance of the vote so members have an opportunity to nominate further persons (for any post) if they so wish. I may have missed such an announcement but I don’t think this is current practice, which may in some way suggest that “Buggins Turn” might be operating if, surprise surprise, there is only one nominee for a post when the voting forms come out.

    #618789
    Andy Wilson
    Keymaster

    Publishing interim lists of nominees is an interesting idea. I have my doubts it would encourage many additional people to stand, but you never know.

    As pointed out by James, the cost of the election is likely to be the same whether there is one or many more candidates than positions to be filled. If we find ourselves in a position where the number of nominees matches the number of positions for each role, then it would be sensible to consider whether an election should be held.

    Looking back over recent ballots, only one person has stood for each of the key Officer roles. However, until the last couple of years there have been more members standing than there were positions to fill for both the Trustees and Council. In 2021 there were 6 members standing for the 5 Trustee positions. Going back to 2018 there were 10 candidates for the 5 Trustee positions and 14 for the 5 Council positions.

    Combined with a lack of a volunteer to stand as the Meetings Secretary, this is a concerning decline in members standing for Council, Trustee and Officer positions. I wonder if this could be related to the lack of opportunities for informal chats at events during the pandemic, or if this is due to other factors that will continue the trend.

    A final thought. It would be great to include any suggestions and concerns in the latest BAA survey. I have already used it to give some anonymous suggestions.

    https://britastro.org/2023/help-shape-the-future-of-our-association

    Andy

    • This reply was modified 9 months, 1 week ago by Andy Wilson.
    • This reply was modified 9 months, 1 week ago by Andy Wilson.
    • This reply was modified 9 months, 1 week ago by Andy Wilson.
    • This reply was modified 9 months, 1 week ago by Andy Wilson.
    #618802
    Steve Holmes
    Participant

    It wasn’t the issue of cost that was the reason for my suggestion but rather the pointlessness of holding a ballot whose outcome is already known. The steady decrease in numbers of members putting themselves forward for offices and for Council is indeed worrying but is really an issue peripheral to my suggestion. I would be very happy to see ballots having to be held because so many nominations had been received but as that does not seem to be the case at present I still believe that my suggestion would be a worthwhile amendment to the Constitution, and maybe the corollary (to publish interim lists of nominees) might just encourage more people to put themselves forward when they see they might just have a sensible chance of being elected due to the low number of current nominations. Worth a try, surely?

    #618804
    Jeremy Shears
    Participant

    I think Andy has hit the nail on the head here. We really do need more people standing for elected positions, as well as volunteers supporting the breadth of our activities, to ensure our Association thrives. I don’t see how not having ballots is going to help that. If anyone thinks they’d like to stand at the next ballot, or volunteering in any capacity for that matter, now’s the time to start exploring the possibility.

    #618824
    Steve Holmes
    Participant

    As I have already responded, the lack of people coming forward is not the issue I am trying to deal with by my suggstion of not enforcing a ballot whose result is already known. Apart from the fact that fewer people offering to stand will almost certainly result in additional occasions where there are no more nominees than are required to exactly fill the posts up for election, the two are entirely separate. Persuading people to stand is a matter of advertising and persuasion whereas the removal of un-necessary ballots is a constitutional matter. Hopefully, a resolution to change the Constitution in this way can be presented to the next AGM (I assume this is the way to do it) and be voted through very rapidly as it is surely simply common sense to not require an essentially pointless exercise.

    #619842
    David Arditti
    Participant

    To provide a conclusion to this topic, I can report that the BAA Council discussed the proposal that the ballot should not be held in years when no positions are contested. They voted by a large majority to retain the current system of holding a ballot every year.

    However, we will shortly be bringing forward proposals to amend the By-laws so as to give the Board of Trustees explicit authority to hold only an on-line ballot, without the postal one, if they decide this is appropriate. This would considerably reduce the costs of holding our elections.

    David Arditti
    President

    #619844
    Steve Holmes
    Participant

    I am utterly flabbergasted that the BAA Council should have voted to retain the current voting system, let alone by a large majority. Did the Council members actually understand what they were voting for? That is, in the case where the number of candidates for a post does not exceed the number of vacancies, to retain an utterly pointless ballot whose outcome is known in advance. Merely transferring the ballot online does not change this simple fact.

    Frankly, words fail me.

    #619850
    Dawson
    Participant

    Steve, the obvious answer is for you to join the Council, debate the matter, and convince everyone else to vote a different way.

    I can see you are annoyed by this, but I suspect it is VERY low down anyone else’s priority list.

    James

    #619872
    Steve Holmes
    Participant

    The possibility of me joining the Council in order to foster further debate on the matter has been suggested before but I am inherently against “single issue” candidates. One should wish to join the Council in order to further the development of the Association, not just to argue a specific point.

    Yes, I would entirely agree that the issue is likely to be low down on anyone’s priority list (including mine!) but I do wonder whether the current system, with its tendency to generate pointless ballots, is in some way responsible for the low voting numbers. Some (such as myself) may not vote at all because they realise that parts of the election are un-necessary anyway and others might be put off by the way that the elections for Council members and Trustees interact, with the additional complication caused by elections whose outcome is a foregone conclusion only adding to the confusion.

    And while the issue might be low-priority, surely it is such a simple thing to understand and correct that it should not need a Parliamentary Enquiry to quickly resolve?

    #619874
    Dawson
    Participant

    Well you’ve done your bit and raised the issue on this forum for all to see, and to show how passionate you are about the matter. It is up to Council to decide if it is worthy of their time to discuss it further and/or take action.

    #619876
    Andy Wilson
    Keymaster

    I believe there are differing opinions on the entire purpose of the ballot. While ideally there would be multiple candidates for each position, the vote could be considered an affirmation of the candidates to their positions by the membership, even when there are no other candidates.

    There are also issues with the BAA being a charity where the Trustees take ultimate responsibility for the governance. There needs to be a formal process for appointing Trustees. A ballot is an excellent and transparent way to accomplish this.

    There is the separate question of whether to hold a postal ballot or just digital. The postal ballot accounts for around half the cost but only around 2% of eligible members vote this way.

    On a side topic. While the turn out is low, I am not convinced it is shockingly low for a membership organisation. A little over 22% of eligible members voted this year. This compares to 67% in the 2019 UK general election and 36% in the 2021 English local elections.

    • This reply was modified 6 months, 3 weeks ago by Andy Wilson.
    • This reply was modified 6 months, 3 weeks ago by Andy Wilson.
    • This reply was modified 6 months, 3 weeks ago by Andy Wilson.
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