by George Rossano
Updated 5 May 2013 to include results of Critical Issues meeting, and final declaration of the election.
Updated 1 May 2013 to include the published procedure for election posted on U.S. Figure Skating website 1 March 2013, and to include the relevant section of U.S. Figure Skating bylaws.
Any inference that secrecy has been a part of the planned conduct of the election, or a breach of confidentiality was involved in preparing these comments is mistaken, and was unintended. U.S. Figure Skating has been completely up front about its intentions, and our comments derive solely from publicly available information.
(29 April 2013) Every year, there's always one item of business above all others that particularly captures the interest of Governing Council delegates. This year the animated buzz among the delegates is the request to extend the term of incumbent president Pat St. Peter to an historic fifth year in office. The reason offered for this is that the Association would be better served if the four year presidential term (voted one year at a time) lined up with the Olympic Winter Games schedule, where a new president took office after the Winter Games and continued through the subsequent Winter Games. Currently that term is one year out of synch with the games.
I will let other debate whether this is necessary or useful, and offer no opinion here, but I can't help but comment on the process being used to achieve this.
U.S. Figure Skating bylaws require a two-thirds vote of the delegates to extend the term of an officer beyond their term limits, even if the office is uncontested, which is the case this year.
Section 2 Terms. The president, the three vice presidents, the secretary and the treasurer will each be elected to hold office for a term of one year and may hold office for no more than four consecutive terms, except by a vote of two-thirds of the votes cast of the Governing Council delegates present in person or by proxy at the annual meeting of the Governing Council at which they are elected.
In the past this has always been done by a secret written ballot prior to the start of the meeting on the closing day of Governing Council. A few years back, this process was used to extend the term of the incumbent secretary one year. It's quick and painless, and requires the delegates get to the meeting a few minutes earlier than otherwise to cast their votes.
Per the following document posted on the U.S. Figure Skating website on 1 March 2013, this year the president was elected by acclamation.
Procedure for Election of President
The 2012-13 Nominating Committee has nominated Patricia St. Peter to serve a fifth consecutive term as President. Article X, Section 2 of the Bylaws outlines the requirement that such a candidate, to be elected for more than four consecutive terms, must receive a minimum two thirds of the votes cast of the Governing Council delegates present in person or by proxy at the annual meeting of the Governing Council. After consultation with U.S. Figure Skating’s legal counsel, Tom James, and parliamentarian, Dorothy Demarest, and per Roberts Rules of Order, Newly Revised 11th edition, which governs all meetings of Governing Council, the following are the procedures to be used for the election of the position of President at the 2013 Governing Council:
1. If the Nominating Committee’s nominee is the only candidate for election as President (i.e., no other candidate is nominated by the April 15 deadline prescribed in Nominating Committee Rule 3.04G), the Nominating Committee’s nominee will be elected by acclamation (i.e., the chair pro tem of the meeting, Dorothy Demarest, declares the nominee elected.)
2. If one other nomination is made for the office of President (nominated per Nominating Committee Rule 3.04G), the Governing Council will use a ballot to conduct the election between the two candidates, with the Nominating Committee’s nominee needing a vote of two-thirds of the votes cast to be elected to a fifth consecutive term, and the other nomination will need a majority vote of the votes cast to be elected. If neither candidate receives the necessary number of votes for election on the first ballot, re-balloting will be conducted until one of the candidates receives the necessary number of votes to be elected.
3. If more than one other nomination is made for the office of President (nominated per Nominating Committee Rule 3.04G), the Governing Council will use a ballot to conduct the election among all candidates, with the Nominating Committee’s nominee needing a vote of two-thirds of the votes cast to be elected to a fifth consecutive term, and either of the other nominated candidates would need a majority vote of the votes cast to be elected. If no one candidate receives the necessary number of votes for election on the first ballot, re-balloting will be conducted (with the names of all candidates included) until one of the candidates receives the necessary number of votes to be elected.
A minority of delegates, however, viewed this as a bad, bad idea.
Even for uncontested elections, the view of some delegates (including this one) was that delegates have the right to reject the candidate of the Nominating Committee if that is what the delegates want the Governing Council to do; and the only way to insure the delegates vote their true convictions is by a closed written ballot. My sense, hearing from many delegates, was that some find the idea of a voice vote intimidating, and prefer elections for officers should be by ballot.
The vote by acclamation felt too much to some delegates (including myself) like being told it didn't matter what they thought, since nothing that felt like a "real: election they could participate took place, and seemed contrary to the bylaws that a two-thirds vote would take place.
Critical Issues Meeting (3 May) and Election (5 May)
Friday evening before the Governing Council convened, the Association legal council and the parliamentarian explained to the delegates the legal and parliamentary basis for the method for the election this year. Basically it came down to the deference the bylaws give to Robert's Rules in conducting elections, whose process is not spelled out in detail in the bylaws, and the prohibition against nominations from the floor in the bylaws.
The most current version of Robert's Rules require the chair simply declare the candidates elected. Legally this meets the definition of a vote, though it certainly doesn't feel like one to the layman. As the parliamentarian rightly pointed out to us after the presentation to the delegates, if the delegates wanted to have an election they should have nominated a candidate before the April 15th deadline to do so. Since no one stepped up to the plate to contest the election, that in itself constituted unanimous consent to the election of the candidfates.
With further discussion with the parliamentarian it was learned there was still a "nuclear option" (our description) to force a symbolic ballot (written vote), but one that surely would not be acceptable to the vast majority of the delegates, and not change the outcome of the election in any event. This would have consisted of asking the Governing Council to suspend Robert's Rules for the election (requiring a two-thirds vote) and then asking them to approve(requiring a majority vote) a vote by ballot -- a strategy, in our estimation, that surely would have failed, as the delegates overall were clearly in favor of the nominated slate of candidates.
At the time of the election on Sunday, the chair declared the slate of candidates elected and Pat. St. Peter began her historic fifth term as president of U.S. Figure Skating.
Copyright 2013 by George S. Rossano