Remote voting approved by General Assembly
It’s official. Delegates to General Assembly no longer have to all be at GA in order to participate in the UUA’s annual gathering. In a vote Sunday afternoon in the last plenary session of the five-day GA, delegates voted to allow off-site voting and participation.
The vote in the hall was overwhelmingly in favor of this new procedure. There were maybe a dozen no votes apparent from the front of the hall. The vote from offsite delegates generated a ripple of laughter in the hall when it was posted on the big screen. They voted 19-0 in favor.
Before the final vote delegates rejected a proposed amendment that called for the number of offsite delegates to be capped at no more than 10 percent of the number of total eligible delegates.
There is a pilot program at this GA that allows a few delegates to follow GA from home and speak to issues and vote on them in real time. Forty-nine people have registered to be offsite delegates and around 15 to 25 of them are generally online at any one time during plenary sessions. The offsite votes are counted this year but they are not part of the official tallies. Next year they will be, as a result of this afternoon’s vote.
One offsite delegate, the Rev. Dr. Randolph Becker, of the UU Fellowship of Key West, Florida, urged delegates to vote in favor of off-site voting.
Offsite delegate Beth Walden, of Logan, Utah, observed, “I’m with you in spirit and passion. Some of us can’t come for a variety of reasons, but we’re committed to fully participating.”
UUA Trustee Linda Laskowski, from the Pacific Central District, noted that in a typical year less than half of all eligible delegates attend GA. This year 2,059 delegates came to Charlotte out of approximately 5,000 eligible delegates. (A total of 4,082 people attended GA.)
One delegate said he feared the possibility that the online voting process could be hacked. Mark Steinwinter, the UUA’s director of Information Technology, assured delegates that a protocol of passwords and user IDs were in place and that the system was properly safeguarded.
The “dress rehearsal” this year of all aspects of off-site participation is in preparation for a full operation at GA 2012 and thereafter.