Some Question Integrity Of Union Vote

CTNewsJunkie: Union Voting Begins, Integrity of Vote Called Into Question By Some <read>

Union leaders are optimistic the labor agreement reached with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration will be ratified despite vocal opponents questioning the integrity of the voting process…

But there is some distrust among members regarding the process and a strong opposition movement encouraging members to vote against the agreement. Several union members have also emailed CTNewsJunkie with questions regarding how the vote will be counted, how that 80 percent will be calculated and what sort of oversight the process will have…

One member said he could not locate language in the union’s bylaws requiring the 80 percent vote or specifying how it is calculated. However, section 10 of SEBAC’s bylaws state the agreement requires a “four-fifths majority of representatives in good standing and not more than one bargaining agent voting in opposition.”

[State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition spokesman Matt] O’Connor likened the process to the presidential Electoral College. Unions vary in the size of their membership, and their votes are weighted depending on that size, he said…

But one member said that system lends itself to rigging and dropping a piece of paper into a cardboard box gives few members confidence.

“This is outrageous and is not logical, unless you’re attempting to fix the vote to pass the most difficult aspect. The correct way is to let all votes stand as they have been cast, report those for and against numbers to SEBAC and combine all the yays and nays and arrive at a true membership percentage,” he wrote…

Members have also expressed concern over how the voting process will be monitored and whether or not an impartial third party would have oversight of it. O’Connor said the process is as transparent as possible but pointed out that the specifics of how votes are cast are really up to each individual union. Much like how each state in the nation decides its own voting process, each element of the coalition sets its own rules…

Members looking for specifics about the process can find them spelled out in their union’s individual constitution, he said.

Will there be a third party overseeing the votes of each union and their subsequent bargaining units?

“We’re not inviting the Carter Center in if that’s what you’re asking,” O’Connor joked.

There seems to be several issues.  First, does the overall process and accounting for approval correspond to predetermined bylaws and rules?  Second, will the election itself be free from manipulation? And Third, is it sufficiently transparent to generate confidence in the losing side that they actually lost?

If the sketchy details are consistent with the voting system, then we  suspect that the voting process may not be transparent enough to generate that confidence. Voting with slips of paper in a box is fine if the vote takes place all at once and the ballots are publicly counted immediately thereafter. There seem to be two problems with the system described – the ballots need to be counted immediately and publicly after the box is opened, and the box must be on public display and actually observed by opposing interests the whole time.

Connecticut’s alternative for our elections is ballots publicly inserted into optical scanners then a result tape immediately produced and displayed publicly – followed by a post-election audit.  This could work for the unions except that if there are multi-day elections the issue arises of security of the ballots and scanners between voting times. (Unfortunately, in the case of Connecticut elections ballot security and chain of custody between election day and the audit is insufficient to provide confidence.)


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