by Jeff Thom

Perhaps the most important difference between the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind is that we in ACB have a proud heritage that policy is to be made by the membership, rather than having our leaders dictate our decisions for us. This heritage is demonstrated annually at each ACB convention by our always action-packed election of officers and directors, and open and free-flowing debate on constitutional amendments, bylaws, and resolutions.

Some ACB members have expressed a desire to modify our current convention voting system in two ways: first, through the use of secret balloting, as opposed to our current standing vote methodology; and secondly, through the use of methods whereby those not in attendance at the convention would be permitted to vote, more generally referred to as absentee balloting. President Pomerantz has decided to appoint a task force, composed of me, Brenda Dillon, Patrick Sheehan, and Ken Stewart. Our task is to look at methods for secret balloting and absentee balloting and their feasibility in the context of our organization. It is our intention to provide you, the ACB membership, with the most complete information possible to make informed decisions as to whether, and if so, in what manner, either secret or absentee balloting should be incorporated into our voting system. Because any changes in something so important as voting systems are of such fundamental importance, we intend to take the time necessary to provide the membership the most complete and comprehensive information possible. We wish to hear from as many of you as possible, both those who feel that either absentee or secret balloting should be incorporated into our voting structure and those of you who feel that our current methods should be retained.

That task force has decided to compile information on the issue of secret balloting first, and then turn its attention to that of absentee balloting. We have chosen this approach because, in our view, the issues relating to absentee balloting are far more complex. We intend to present our findings concerning secret balloting at the 2008 convention, and those relating to absentee balloting at a later date. For the sake of clarification, presentation of findings relating to secret balloting at the 2008 convention would not enable action to be taken that would impact balloting at that convention, as constitutional changes would be required. With respect to how you can have input into this process, we will take written or verbal testimony. If you would like to provide written testimony, we will certainly accept any format. For those with computer access, e-mail is certainly appreciated, as it can easily be disseminated to all task force members. You can e-mail me at [email protected] or send information in other formats to 7414 Mooncrest Way, Sacramento, CA 95831. If you would like to provide oral testimony, we hope to hold our first open conference call at 7 p.m. Eastern (4 p.m. Pacific) on March 2. To participate on the call, dial in to 1-866-633-8638 and use meeting ID 868464. We will only be taking testimony about secret balloting during this conference call in order to ensure that we can meet our goal of providing our findings on this issue at the convention. If sufficient interest exists, we will attempt to have another call regarding secret balloting prior to the convention.

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