“Is the Unitarian Universalist Association democratically governed?” It is a reasonable question.
More than a decade after the 2009 Fifth Principle Task Force urged reforms to General Assembly, the institution continues to conduct the business of the Association in ways the report found clearly undemocratic. Consider, for example, that we do not have any collective memory of electing the UUA Board Trustees.
Although Jay’s candidacy was unsuccessful, his campaign objective to elevate the role of democracy in the governance of the Association succeeded. It was encouraging in this connection to see the defeat of the UUA Board’s proposal eliminating the only guaranteed election UUs have in the selection of our UUA president. However, our UU leadership’s overall response to Jay’s candidacy gives less cause for optimism.
At the June 25 plenary session of GA 2021, a board member stated, “Contrary to the lie we have heard repeated many times over the past few months, each of us was vetted by the Nominating Committee and then elected by the General Assembly.”
The last observation, to borrow from current public vernacular, is an alternative fact.
Article IX, Section 9.01, subsection (a) in the Association’s bylaws is clear. “Voting shall be by ballot, except that if only one person has been validly nominated for an elective position at large the persons so nominated shall be declared elected and no voting shall be required.” In other words, despite the vetting by the Nominating Committee, the candidates selected by the Nominating Committee are not elected. They are “declared elected.”
This year there was an election between Jay and Sam because Jay ran for the same seat that Sam was chosen for by the Nominating Committee. As in past years, the unopposed individuals selected by the Nominating were awarded their board seats simply due to their nomination.
Why then did a UUA Board Trustee deem it necessary to make a public statement that people identified by the Nominating Committee “had been elected by the General Assembly?” More importantly, why did a UUA Board Trustee publicly declare that assertions to the contrary are a “lie”? Not only is this statement of the Trustee an alternative fact, but it is also an exceedingly inappropriate and unbecoming thing to say.
This public announcement by a lone board member was not an isolated effort to leave the impression that our Association is democratically governed.
When delegates accessed their ballot for the election between Jay and Sam, their names were properly listed. Delegates could then cast a ballot for either candidate. However, also listed were the names of people identified by the Nominating Committee with a check box option to “vote” for the individual. Rule G-9.13.3 in the bylaws prohibits write-in votes.
Bear in mind, those votes for unopposed individuals carried no consequences. Whether they received every single delegate vote or not a single vote, they were going to assume their leadership position. Why were their names listed on the ballot?
We Ask the Board Secretary
We posed that question to Bill Young, the UUA Board Secretary. Our inquiry referenced the bylaw noted above, concerns raised by a misleading ballot, and why individuals not involved in an electoral process were included in his announcement of election results. The reply consisted of three observations.
- The “contested election” (all, please look up the definition of ‘contested election’) necessitated the creation of a ballot.
- It is common practice to show candidates in uncontested elections on a ballot.
- Yes, the bylaws indicated voting shall not be required, but it does not prohibit delegates from voting.
The response did not sway us from our initial observation that there was an intentional effort to obfuscate the fact that voting Trustees had not been democratically elected. It raises questions why such steps were taken. What are your thoughts?
We welcome reader’s comments.
Subscribe to Comments
Subscribe to comments to follow the comments from other readers.