PASS: Election Changes for 2011

Last year after the election, the PASS Board created an Election Review Committee.  This group was charged with reviewing our election procedures and making suggestions to improve the process.  You can read about the formation of the group and review some of the intermediate work on the site – especially in the forums.

I was one of the members of the group along with Joe Webb (Chair), Lori Edwards, Brian Kelley, Wendy Pastrick, Andy Warren and Allen White.  This group worked from October to April on our election process.  Along the way we:

  • Interviewed interested parties including former NomCom members, Board candidates and anyone else that came forward.
  • Held a session at the Summit to allow interested parties to discuss the issues
  • Had numerous conference calls and worked through the various topics

I can’t thank these people enough for the work they did.  They invested a tremendous number of hours thinking, talking and writing about our elections.  I’m proud to say I was a member of this group and thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone (even if I did finally get tired of all the calls.)

The ERC delivered their recommendations to the PASS Board prior to our May Board meeting.  We reviewed those and made a few modifications.  I took their recommendations and rewrote them as procedures while incorporating those changes.  Their original recommendations as well as our final document are posted at the ERC documents page.  Please take a second and read them BEFORE we start the elections.  If you have any questions please post them in the forums on the ERC site.

(My final document includes a change log at the end that I decided to leave in.  If you want to know which areas to pay special attention to that’s a good start.)

Many of those recommendations were already posted in the forums or in the blogs of individual ERC members.  Hopefully nothing in the ERC document is too surprising.

In this post I’m going to walk through some of the key changes and talk about what I remember from both ERC and Board discussions.  I’ll pay a little extra attention to things the Board changed from the ERC.  I’d also encourage any of the Board or ERC members to blog their thoughts on this.

  1. The Nominating Committee will continue to exist.  Personally, I was curious to see what the non-Board ERC members would think about the NomCom.  There was broad agreement that a group to vet candidates had value to the organization.
  2. The NomCom will be composed of five members.  Two will be Board members and three will be from the membership at large.  The only requirement for the three community members is that you’ve volunteered in some way (and volunteering is defined very broadly).  We expect potential at-large NomCom members to participate in a forum on the PASS site to answer questions from the other PASS members.
  3. We’re going to hold an election to determine the three community members.  It will be closer to voting for Summit sessions than voting for Board members.  That means there won’t be multiple dedicated emails.  If you’re at all paying attention it will be easy to participate.  Personally I wanted it easy for those that cared to participate but not overwhelm those that didn’t care.  I think this strikes a good balance.
  4. There’s also a clause that in order to be considered a winner in this NomCom election, you must receive 10 votes.  This is something I suggested.  I have no idea how popular the NomCom election is going to be.  I just wanted a fallback that if no one participated and some random person got in with one or two votes.  Any open slots will be filled by the NomCom chair (usually the PASS Immediate Past President).  My assumption is that they would probably take the next highest vote getters unless they were throwing flames in the forums or clearly unqualified.  As a final check, the Board still approves the final NomCom.
  5. The NomCom is going to rank candidates instead of rating them.  This has interesting implications.  This was championed by another ERC member and I’m hoping they write something about it.  This will really force the NomCom to make decisions between candidates.  You can’t just rate everyone a 3 and be done with it.  It may also make candidates appear further apart than they actually are.  I’m looking forward talking with the NomCom after this election and getting their feedback on this.
  6. The PASS Board added an option to remove a candidate with a unanimous vote of the NomCom.  This was primarily put in place to handle people that lied on their application or had a criminal background or some other unusual situation and we figured it out.
  7. We list an explicit goal of three candidate per open slot.
  8. We also wanted an easy way to find the NomCom candidate rankings from the ballot.  Hopefully this will satisfy those that want a broad candidate pool and those that want the NomCom to identify the most qualified candidates.
  9. The primary spokesperson for the NomCom is the committee chair.  After the issues around the election last year we didn’t have a good communication plan in place.  We should have and that was a failure on the part of the Board.  If there is criticism of the election this year I hope that falls squarely on the Board.  The community members of the NomCom shouldn’t be fielding complaints over the election process.  That said, the NomCom is ranking candidates and we are forcing them to rank some lower than others.  I’m sure you’ll each find someone that you think should have been ranked differently. 

I also want to highlight one other change to the process that we started last year and isn’t included in these documents.  I think the candidate forums on the PASS site were tremendously helpful last year in helping people to find out more about candidates.  That gives our members a way to ask hard questions of the candidates and publicly see their answers.

This year we have two important groups to fill.  The first is the NomCom.  We need three people from our membership to step up and fill this role.  It won’t be easy.  You will have to make subjective rankings of your fellow community members.  Your actions will be important in deciding who the future leaders of PASS will be.  There’s a 50/50 chance that one of the people you interview will be the President of PASS someday.  This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

The second is the slate of candidates.  If you’ve ever thought about running for the Board this is the year.  We’ve never had nine candidates on the ballot before.  Your chance of making it through the NomCom are higher than in any previous year.  Unfortunately the more of you that run, the more of you that will lose in the election.  And hopefully that competition will mean more community involvement and better Board members for PASS.

Is this the end of changes to the election process?  It isn’t.  Every year that I’ve been on the Board the election process has changed.  Some years there have been small changes and some years there have been large changes.  After this election we’ll look at how the process worked and decide what steps to take – just like we do every year.

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