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April 12, 2003
Mr. Chris Kegel, President
League of American Bicyclists
Wheel and Sprocket
5722 S. 108th St.
Hales Corners, WI 53130-1911
Dear Mr. Kegel:
I am writing because I am concerned about certain aspects of the LAB Board election process. I make the following points concerning both the current election and future elections
Ballot pages in the magazine can not be matched to the members, as was the case when a special ballot mailing was sent out, and each ballot carried a mailing label. The ballot page is much more susceptible to voting fraud or error than the labeled ballots, and because of inconvenience, also discourages members from voting. Members who put the magazine aside without reading through it will not even realize that there is a ballot inside.
In spite of this, several of the incumbent directors apparently do think that a special ballot mailing is a good idea. They just don't think that it should be impartial, or should incorporate even the protection asked for in the magazine ballot, or that the rules established at the start of the election need apply to it. I have been informed that a group of seven directors has recently sent out a mailing to all LAB members in Region 4. This includes a letter of support for the Board's candidate, a ballot, a mailback envelope and a statement that members need not know their membership numbers to vote.
Accepting ballots without membership numbers would contravene the rules established with the ballot form and instructions in the Almanac. Changing the election rules in mid-election, in a mailing supporting one candidate, shows a serious disregard for fairness and taints the election. Also, the membership number is the only election safeguard that prevents someone from submitting multiple ballots.
It is apparent that the group of directors who sent the mailing used a computer mailing list. Therefore, they were provided better member contact information than the petition candidates, who got only a printed roster. It is now too late for the petition candidates to send any more mailings.
An incontrovertible example of bias: the board candidates are described and recommended on the LAB election web page. The two petition candidates are not mentioned at all.
Ballots are to be returned to League headquarters rather than to neutral ballot counters as in the past. Such appearance of impropriety is distressing, considering the bad blood that has existed between some incumbent Board members and the petition candidates. Speculation has already arisen on League e-mail lists about improper pressure on staff -- for example, to the effect that it would be too easy for someone to peek at ballots and then "lose" some marked for a non-favored candidate. In the interest of avoiding ongoing bitterness, dissension and distrust, there must be no grounds for such speculation.
I don't see how fairness in the election can be recovered after the mailing. As of now, my position is that the election needs to be called off and a new election, with first-class mail ballots to the voters, be called, and with every aspect of the new election approved by all sides. This would be in both contested regions, since the Board's preferred candidate in my region has participated in the breaking of the rules in the other region and there are demonstrated and suspected improprieties that affect both regions. The costs of the new election should be shouldered by those who made it necessary, the seven board members who sent the letter and attempted to change the election rules to favor their candidate.
If you have an alternate proposal that the petition candidates and our supporters would find acceptable, we are willing to listen to it. These matters are pressing and need to be dealt with promptly. At a minimum, observers representing the petition candidates must be present during the vote counting. A procedure must be devised and approved by all sides to preserve the ballots and envelopes for possible further review. Any evidence that ballots have been handled, and in particular any evidence that they have been altered in any way (including, but not limited to, adding member numbers to ballots that didn't arrive with them) would mandate a new election.
I am deeply disappointed with the abuses described above and I sincerely hope that the problems with the election can be resolved satisfactorily.
Very truly yours,
John S. Allen
Candidate for Regional Director, New York and New England
Cc Elissa Margolin, Executive Director, LAB
LAB Board members, by e-mail with notification of receipt requested
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