Technology allows congregational delegates to participate and vote even if they cannot travel to New Orleans.
Delegates wait in line to vote in the 2009 UUA presidential election (© Nancy Pierce). This year, thanks to electronic voting, delegates can vote using a web browser from any location.
How does your congregation select its delegates to General Assembly? Does your board president look around, learn who’s planning to attend GA, and then ask those individuals if they are willing to be delegates?
While the UUA makes it clear that the process by which delegates are selected is entirely up to each congregation, its leaders would like it to be less a case of who’s available and more one of who’s most thoughtful about the future of the UU movement.
“It is the ardent hope of the UUA Board of Trustees that our congregations and communities will care enough to engage one another about the best interests of our movement, and then vote with those best interests in mind,” said the Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs*, board secretary.
Eller-Isaacs, who oversees the voting process, acknowledges that congregations don’t always take delegate selection as seriously as they could—but he has high hopes: “Ideally, the election process is a covenantal process in which we ask ourselves who that is running will most effectively help us fulfill the promises we’re making to each other.”
One challenge to a more deliberate process is that congregational leaders may be so absorbed in issues surrounding their own communities that they have little time or energy to look beyond that to what is going on with the larger UU movement. That may be different this year with the first contested election of a UU president in eight years. And, with the help of technology, the UUA is making it easier than ever for congregations to be involved in the election process. While it has been the case for some time that GA delegates could vote by absentee ballot if necessary, this year delegates who are not onsite in New Orleans can participate virtually in general sessions via live streaming and, for the first time, vote electronically.
In other words, delegates need not be present physically in New Orleans to fulfill their duties.
That could eliminate the need on the part of board presidents to scour their congregations for somebody who is going to GA.
“Electronic voting this year is less about the ability to vote at the General Assembly, and more in the hope that there will be deep conversation on a regional and cluster level that informs people’s votes,” Eller-Isaacs said.
While offsite delegates still must pay a conference registration fee, it is less than half the fee of attending in person. Offsite delegates will get instructions about how to speak at general sessions, all of which will be live streamed.
Delegates can vote from 9 a.m. CDT on June 1 through 5 p.m. CDT on June 24. Nevertheless, Eller-Isaacs said, “Our hope is that people will wait until after the [June 23] presidential forum to cast their votes, so that they are as fully informed as possible.”
The print version of this article omitted the honorific from the Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs’s name. Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.
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Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who is also a member of First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles.
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