LAB election irregularities

14.  Fred Oswald demands a fair election

Note: The domain names in the email addresses below have been altered to protect against email spammers.

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 234512 -0400

To: Chris Kegel,
Mike Greehan,
Phyllis Harmon,
Fred Meredith,
Jon Orcutt,
Brenda Pulley,
Martha Roskowski,
Barbara Sturges,
David Takemoto-Weerts,
[email protected],
Don Sparks,
Rich Killingsworth,
Joe Stafford

From: Fred Oswald
Subject: LAB Board election


Mr Kegel, other members of the Board and Ms. Margolin

John Allen and I have raised serious issues concerning the conduct of the LAB Director election, particularly in Region 4. Chris Kegel called about this me on Wed, 4/23 to establish a "dialogue".  I understand that we are to have a conference call on Mon. evening, 4/28.

In his call, Chris mentioned that directors have the right to campaign for their candidate.  We agree.  However there are appropriate, fair and reasonable methods for such campaigning.  Appropriate ways to campaign include the board’s endorsement on the ballot.  (This was done not once as in the 2002 election but several times.)  In addition, you certainly have the right to campaign on cycling email lists (as done by Barbara Sturges and by us).  We note however, that both of your candidates were listed first on the ballot, giving them an advantage.  In previous elections, the placement of candidates on the ballot form was selected randomly, in the interest of fairness.

Other actions done by you and "the committee to elect Mark Terman" go far beyond fairness.  These measures were deliberately taken to give your candidate an unfair advantage.  Thus, you have destroyed any chance for fairness in the election.  The unfair advantage started with giving both opposition candidates only three days notice to prepare statements and provide photographs for the ballot.  And then neither of us was even mentioned on the League web site.

The problems mentioned above are disturbing but relatively minor.  They might even be excused as "unintentional" oversights.  But the more serious abuses discussed below are no accident.  They are clear evidence of a deliberate attempt to steal the election.

Your last-minute mailing set a new precedent, and it’s not a good one.  First, it introduces the concept that it takes significant money to run in an LAB board election.  This disenfranchises the members and gives an advantage to people with moneyed contacts.  And the last-minute timing of the mailing was designed to forestall genuine dialogue about the issues and instead substitute the advantage of money and a sneak attack.  While not illegal, this is loathsome in its lowering of the quality of League elections, and it is disrespectful of those of us who choose to run for board seats.

Next, the mailing was sent using a computerized mailing list that was denied to the opposition.  This is clearly a breach of ethics and is blatantly unfair.

The most serious misconduct involves the instruction "You do not need your member number in order to vote."  I remind you that the ballot included a space for the member number and the instruction to "complete the ballot."  A partisan mailing urging incomplete ballots, followed by a suspicious board decision to accept incomplete ballots, is an obvious conflict of interest.  I would be interested to see what the board vote would have been if the seven signatories to the Terman endorsement letter had done the right thing and recused themselves from voting on this issue.

Thus we have board interference, giving preferred access to the mailing list, changing the rules and encouraging possible fraud.  I absolutely will not accept these conditions.

In our telephone conversation, you said that we must all respect each other.  Indeed we should.  However your conduct towards us has been reprehensible.  You have not respected us.  You have not treated us fairly.  How can you expect us to hold any respect for you?

You told me that you would not tolerate any favoritism by the staff in the conduct of the election.  How can we believe this claim considering the abuses and misconduct that you, yourself have committed?

I hear frequently from people who have concerns about ballot tampering.  We hope that ballot handling was done honestly.  We need proof that tampering did not occur.  Mr. Kegel, your own partisanship in this election has been so blunt that you must take the blame for this suspicion of tampering.  It is impossible to believe that the staff is unaware of the intensity of your preferences, or the brutality of your tactics in attempting to make your preferences come true.  We have previously provided you with measures to detect whether ballot tampering has occurred.  You must agree to them.  And the League must never again hold such sloppy election procedures.  If the procedures are correct, tampering is not even a possibility.

If you really want our respect, the best way you can start to regain this respect is by calling a new and squeaky-clean election that corrects these mistakes and abuses.  New ballots must be sent out with a letter of apology that explains that the first election was not conducted fairly; and that inappropriate instructions were given in a partisan mailing.  There must be no further interference by the board.

If you take halfway measures, you may escape a court challenge of the election but you will not deserve or gain our trust or respect.  Thus far we have heard not even a hint of an apology for your actions.  Indeed, you seem determined to preserve the unfair advantages you might gain by encouraging people to violate the ballot rule by omitting the member number.

At a minimum, you must take the following steps

1.  Ballots lacking the membership number must be disqualified and not included in the vote count.  I repeat for emphasis that counting incomplete ballots will be seen as stealing the election.  This is not an issue that you can resolve by talking to your supporters.  You need to respect the fairness of the electoral process by honoring the spirit of the ballot as it was printed, and that means rejecting incomplete ballots.

2.  We must be allowed to have up to two observers present for both the ballot-qualifying process and the vote count.  The observers must be permitted to inspect every ballot, every envelope and every membership record.

3.  If the count occurs other than in Washington, DC, you must reimburse travel expenses for our observers.  You are mistaken if you believe the League members will see the move of the ballot counting as anything other than a move to disenfranchise the voters.  Whatever your motives, you are acting in secrecy, and that makes you look bad.  To the extent that the move makes it impossible for our side to verify the accuracy of the vote count, you subject yourself to further suspicion and scrutiny.

4.  The ballot-qualifying process and vote count must be conducted in a single day for the convenience of the observers.  There must be no tampering with ballots prior to the count.

5.  Our observers must be allowed to check for the presence of ballots from people that we know voted for us.  This protects the board from allegations that some ballots from our supporters were deliberately "lost".

6.  Any ballots opened prior to the vote count must be noted as such and separately tallied. 

7.  If necessary, we will demand the right to challenge any ballots opened prior to the count (by sending letters asking whether the member actually cast the vote.)  Costs for such mailings must be borne by "the committee". 

8.  All ballots and envelopes must be retained for at least one year in case further examination is necessary.

I repeat, these eight steps are only a halfway measure.  They may reduce the damage to the League but they are not enough for you to win our respect or trust.

Finally, if either of your candidates "wins" under the procedures outlined in Martha’s memo of April 17, we will consider that the election has been stolen.  There is no way around this conclusion.  We will respond in whatever ways we feel are appropriate.  This will almost certainly be harmful to the League as well as to the reputations of those who committed malfeasance.

Fred Oswald

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