In fall of 2019, ASCCC plenary session delegates debated and adopted a series of resolutions that updated sections of the ASCCC Rules—and in one case, its bylaws—that pertain to the elections process for members of the ASCCC Executive Committee. The order in which representative positions are elected has been reversed. Nominations from the floor will not be called for except in the case of positions for which no one has accepted a nomination. From a procedural standpoint, one of the most drastic changes amended the rules to incorporate instant-runoff voting, a topic that is addressed in some detail in the February 2020 Rostrum.
Many of the proposed and adopted resolutions updating the rules and altering the ASCCC elections process were presented within the context of the ASCCC’s commitment to diversity and in an effort to address concerns that being elected to the Executive Committee for the first time may be unreasonably difficult and that the previous rules and elections procedures may have favored incumbents. Significantly, the delegates voted in favor of term limits of three one-year terms for officers and two two-year terms for representatives, whereas the only previous limitation on term length applied to the president.
One of the more controversial elections-related topics during the Fall 2019 Plenary Session was the practice of “trickling,” which for many years allowed candidates to be considered for multiple positions. When trickling was in place, if a candidate did not prevail in an election for a position, the candidate was allowed to be considered for other positions as well, “trickling” down through the elections for the positions that the candidate was eligible for. However, the adoption of Resolution 1.07 F19, Clarify Nomination Process and Eliminate Trickling ended the practice of trickling, instead amending the rules to provide that candidates could accept no more than two nominations and providing that in the event that a candidate accepts two nominations, “the first election in which the candidate prevails will be the position the candidate subsequently assumes.” While some argue that this change simply affects the nomenclature, all will agree that the adoption of the resolution limits the number of nominations a candidate can accept to two, whereas the previous rules and practice of trickling technically allowed a candidate to be considered for all positions that the candidate may have been eligible for: president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary, north or south, area representative, and at-large.
These changes have provoked some local senate members, the ASCCC Standards and Practices Committee, and the Executive Committee to ask about special elections for unexpired term positions. Specifically, the question is whether candidates who accepted two nominations but did not succeed in gaining a position in the regular elections can be considered for special elections. Mid-cycle incumbents, one year into a two-year term as a representative, are sometimes elected to a different position, thus leaving the remainder of the original term open. In addition, members of the Executive Committee in some cases depart their positions unexpectedly during the plenary session. When such vacancies occur, a special election is held.
The updated rules do not allow for a candidate to accept more than two nominations. However, the ASCCC Rules and the Elections Procedures Manual clarify that special elections are separate from regular elections and do not begin until the regular election is concluded. Section I.D.2 of the ASCCC Rules reads, “If there is a vacancy on the Board of Directors, a special election to fill that vacancy may be held on the last day of the Fall or Spring Plenary Session. Any special election will be held following all regularly scheduled elections.” The ASCCC Elections Procedures Manual further clarifies that “If a position becomes vacant during the election, a special election can be held upon completion of the regular election. However, the nominations for the vacant position cannot be opened until the end of the regular election.” These statements imply that special elections are different and separate elections from regular elections. Candidates could not accept nominations for special elections in advance of the regular elections at a plenary session because the vacancies would not yet exist. Even when mid-cycle incumbents accept nominations for other positions, nominations for their own positions cannot be taken until the positions become available. Since the regular election is a different election from the special election, candidates that did not prevail in the regular election can accept nominations in the special election just as they might at the regular elections at the subsequent plenary, but since the same rules apply to the special elections, no candidate can accept more than two nominations during the special election.
The 2020 Spring Plenary Session will be the first time the updated elections procedures will be implemented. It will be exciting, and hopefully not too confusing, for delegates to participate in the election of their Executive Committee using these new procedures.