I’ve been catching a lot of flak lately in the form of politically motivated attacks about private emails I’ve written which have been forwarded, distorted, and characterized out of context, so I decided to make my latest report on the goings-on in the UAW 2865 elections committee a public note.

In short, the committee agreed to an election protocol which has few serious protections against vote tampering, despite strenuous objections. Despite the fact that we are a very large, complicated local with many worksites, next week’s election is highly contested, and our most recent statewide vote was challenged as containing irregularities by members from around the state, the committee was not interested in listening to serious proposals for change.

It’s worth pointing out that when objections were raised at the vote count for December’s ratification vote and at January’s Joint Council meeting, the leadership of the union said repeatedly: “These are very legitimate concerns moving forward; you should raise them on the elections committee, where they belong.” Well, they’ve now been raised on the elections committee, and most of the concerns raised were dismissed without a serious hearing.

There are two substantial changes from the procedure we followed for the contract ratification vote. 1) All ballots, not just challenged ballots, will be placed inside two envelopes: a small envelope to guarantee vote privacy, and a larger one which the voter will sign. This measure is designed to prevent voters from voting twice in the same day at different polling places, given that several copies of the voting list will be circulating on each campus. 2) Each voting period will have its own ballot box, which will be used only once and then (supposedly) sealed until the vote count. Though I wonder how San Diego and Berkeley elections reps are going to travel to a central location in the state, possibly on a plane, carrying 25-30 ballot boxes.

The double envelope system is probably a good measure. If the inner envelope is to be sealed, then it will not only provide some protections against double voting, it might provide some protections against vote tampering.

However, the committee refused serious consideration of several more substantial proposals:

During Voting Hours

  1. Ballot boxes shall be uniform, not easily subject to tampering, and shall be opened and closed with a key which the election committee member shall keep at all times. Ballot boxes will not be transparent or translucent on any side. Ballot boxes will be compact enough to fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane. [Not discussed. Ballot boxes will be made of cardboard, assembled by elections committee members.]
  2. Each polling location shall have at least one “voting booth” available for privacy in voting; a booth may be constructed using 3 sides of a large, cardboard box. [Not discussed.]
  3. Members shall be asked to show either state or student ID to vote. New, eligible members signing up at the polls shall be asked to show student identification and vote by provisional ballot. [Proposed and rejected, 5-2.]
  4. Poll workers shall cross off member names on the voter list using different color ink pens for different days and initial next to each name they cross off. Voters shall sign next to their name, using the colored pen for that day, and shall vote using the colored pen for that day. [The first clause of this proposal was policy for the contract ratification vote, and shall continue with this vote. The remainder of the proposal was dismissed as “crazy” by the chair.]
  5. After each voter votes, the poll worker shall stamp the top of every her or his right hand with an ink stamp. [The purpose of this proposal was to defeat double-voting; the double-envelope proposal the committee adopted should adequately address this concern.]
  6. International staff shall not be involved in working the polls. [Not discussed.]
  7. Upon the close of voting each day, the elections committee member shall use a digital camera to take a picture of the ballot box, which will have been sealed with tape with signatures from the elections committee member and any challengers or observers present at the close of voting. Elections committee members shall also take pictures of the tally sheets. All of these pictures shall be distributed each night to all elections committee representatives. [Discussed in part, but never raised for a vote.]
  8. The elections representative shall pack and seal in boxes all used and unused ballots, tally sheets, voter registers, voter eligibility lists, and other election materials upon completion of the vote every day. [Basically included in the chair’s proposal.]

Challengers, member observers, and impartial, non-member observers

  1. Challengers may observe all aspects of the voting process, including setting up the polling places, transporting materials, voting, and storage of ballots. Challengers must register before voting begins on any campus by sending an email to elections@uaw2865.org. [The second sentence was already policy; the rest was not discussed.]
  2. Members may observe all aspects of the voting process, including setting up the polling places, transporting materials, voting, and storage of ballots. If members want to observe part of the process that takes place away from the announced site (like transportation of materials or storage of ballots) they should make arrangements with the elections committee member for their campus the previous day, or at the polling station that day. [Not discussed.]
  3. Impartial, non-member observers such as law students and National Lawyers’ Guild observers acting as election observers shall be permitted. Observers may observe all aspects of the voting process, including setting up the polling places, transporting materials, voting, and storage of ballots. Observers should register before voting begins on any campus by sending an email to elections@uaw2865.org, stating which campus(es) they will be observing. [Not discussed.]

Overnight Storage of Ballots

  1. Hire security guards to sit with the ballot boxes overnight or hire them to take the boxes to a bank vault. [Discussed informally, and criticized by several committee members as way too expensive, but never raised for a vote.]
  2. Members should have a right to observe the ballot boxes at all times, including (and especially) at night after the polls close and before they open again in the morning. There’s no reason members should not be able to observe the ballot boxes at any given moment. [Not discussed.]
  3. Other options:
    1. Get an armored truck to store the ballots overnight at every campus; put them in the box every evening with challengers and observers present; take them out in the morning with challengers and observers present. (A UAW local in Detroit did this for one election.) [Not discussed, except via derisive side-comments. For sure, this proposal has a dramatic air to it, and it didn’t seem one of the more likely options for dealing with the problem given an in-person vote at nine UC campuses. Nevertheless, I thought it was worth having out there: when union elections are heavily contested, responsible union leaders who want to hold a credible vote sometimes resort to dramatic measures to ensure the vote is recognized by all as legitimate.]
    2. Upon the close of voting every day, the elections committee member, along with the challengers and any observers, shall take the ballots to an approved, secure, neutral location, such as a bank safe deposit box, for overnight storage. Ballots shall be deposited there within 45 minutes of the close of voting every day, and shall be picked up no more than 45 minutes before the beginning of voting the next day, by the elections committee member along with challengers and any observers who have made arrangements to be present. In the case of evening balloting where no bank is open upon the nightly close of balloting, a separate ballot box shall be used for evening balloting, and that box shall be stored in the campus unit office overnight. [Discussed informally, but never raised for a vote.]

Counting the Votes

  1. The vote count should be left up to the elections committee, candidates’ challengers, and non-candidate members who want to observe the vote count. None of the current elected officers running for re-election or international staff shall be present at the vote count. [Not discussed.]
  2. On Thursday, April 28, upon conclusion of the vote, elections committee members along with challengers shall bring the ballots to the statewide office in Berkeley. The ballots shall be stored there overnight under the observation of any challengers or non-candidate, non-staff member observers who wish to be there. The count shall begin Friday, April 29, at 9 AM. [Not discussed. The chair said he did not have time to come up with a proposal on the vote count. Discussion of this aspect of the process will continue Friday.]
  3. Upon conclusion of the vote, copies of the voter rolls from all campuses shall be made available at each campus union office for the inspection of members. [Not discussed. The chair said he did not have time to come up with a proposal on the vote count. Discussion of this aspect of the process will continue Friday.]

Despite my very serious concerns about weaknesses in the process – and perhaps also because of them – I strongly encourage grad students, union members, TAs, readers, and tutors to get out to vote next week. A good turnout will be one of our best protections against small, localized fraud which could influence the outcome. Our union matters, and members can still make it what they want it to be. You can find voting locations and times here: http://www.uaw2865.org/?page_id=3131

-Adam Hefty, UAW 2865 Election Committee member, Santa Cruz

PhD Candidate, History of Consciousness