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Testing, Testing… Electronic Voting Malfunctioning at General Conference


The 60th General Conference Session came to order on Thursday with 1,868 of the 2,566 delegates present, but the business session had barely begun when glitches started happening. First, it was the electronic voting mechanisms.

The test run to see if they were working properly demonstrated that not all votes were being counted. A second test went better, but the counts were still obviously off. So GC Vice President Lowell Cooper, who was chairing the session, asked the delegates to get out their voting cards, and said the cards would be used until the technicians could fix the technology problem.

Next Cooper began moving through the preliminaries, like approving the Rules of Order. Immediately there was a delegate at a microphone wanting to speak.

Finn Eckhoff of the Trans European Division was granted permission, and he made a motion addressing the voting percentage required for approval of the fundamental beliefs. Explaining that while most items require a simple majority to win passage, on matters concerning the constitution and bylaws, a two-thirds majority is required. He asserted that the fundamental beliefs are just as important as the constitution and bylaws and therefore a two-thirds majority should be required for them, too.

While there was a second to the motion, it was left on the table. Cooper told the audience that the Rules of Order are created by the GC executive committee, and he suggested referring this requested change to the steering committee rather than voting on it. He got support from the delegates to refer to the steering committee, but not before there were several comments from the floor, including one challenging the procedure being followed. “Since you are asking the floor to approve the referral, you are admitting the floor has the final word on the item.You are shifting the authority to the steering committee. The floor has the final authority. I would recommend that the floor actually vote.” But the floor never did vote on the first motion.

Cooper responded that who creates the rules of order is different from who accepts the rules. “We really should not entertain a motion. By referring to the Steering Committee, we will take into account the recommendation of the brother.”

With that, the session moved on to the next items on the agenda.

But the delegates were still processing what had taken place over the rules procedure. Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division asked for clarification on the vote regarding the rules of order.  “I wonder why the second motion was permitted when the first motion was on the floor.”

Louis Torres, of the North American Division, also questioned the procedure. “If the second motion was granted, Isn’t it normal, isn’t there a precedent to vote a motion up or down before a second motion is made?”

As the day progressed through the acceptance of new unions and other business, the delegates continually made their voices heard. At the introduction of each item, it seemed, there was a delegate at the microphone wishing to speak. 

At the end of the day, there was another test of the voting system. There had been several problems in the morning, it was explained, including the strong internet in the building that had overpowered the voting devices. With technical corrections in place, the system seemed to be working.

Announcing the names selected by the Division Caucuses for the Nominating Committee was the last business of the day. That, too, had its technical glitches. After the names had been projected onto to the screens for the delegates to see, and a vote called for approval, one delegate arose and said that the type on the screen was so small, it was unreadable to his eyes. He admitted that perhaps it was his age, but couldn’t something be done. Several enlargements of the list were then done and the names approved.

The Thursday testing of systems and chairs was done.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.
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