After carefully considering member input, your SF Bicycle Coalition Board of Directors amended the organization’s bylaws to enable the following changes to the board election process:
- Moving the election from the end of the calendar year to the beginning of the calendar year;
- Setting terms of board members to start and end at a board meeting instead of a calendar date; and
- Implementing ranked-choice voting.
Election Timing and Term Start Date
Holding annual board elections in January and/or February better aligns with organizational priorities than the traditional timing of holding board elections in November and December. At the Sept. 26 board meeting, the board approved the schedule for our next board election, setting voting from Jan. 31 through Feb. 16, 2018. This schedule should minimize overlap with holidays, end-of-year events, fundraising and elections. Board member and officer terms will start at the board meeting following the election’s certification for continuity in organizational governance and a smoother transition for incoming and exiting board members.
The board considered ranked-choice voting for director elections in 2016, unanimously passing a resolution to look into implementing it for the 2017 board election (more detail of which can be found here). The board’s governance committee worked on this project in early 2017. After discussing ranked-choice voting implementation at multiple committee and board meetings, soliciting the input of members and outside experts in ranked-choice voting systems, consulting with operations staff, and considering bylaws and budget implications, the governance committee recommended that the board implement ranked-choice voting for the next board election (along with changes in election timing and term start date as described above). These changes required a bylaws amendment, which the board first took up at its June 27 board meeting. While the proposal was favored by a majority of the board members present at that meeting, our bylaws require any bylaws amendment by the board to be approved by a majority of all directors in office. The vote did not satisfy that standard. At the June 27 meeting, several directors expressed a desire for legal advice from counsel specializing in nonprofit law regarding the proposal. That advice was solicited by the board chair and subsequently considered by the full board. At its Sept. 26 meeting, the board returned to the proposal, approving it by a vote of 12 in favor, two opposed and one abstention.
Why Ranked-Choice Voting?
The last board election was conducted with a plurality system, where winning candidates received the most votes, but not necessarily a majority of votes. Voters each voted for up to eight candidates to fill eight open seats on the board. While easy to understand, this system rewards bloc voting, where a bloc or slate of candidates can sweep an election, even without corresponding support among voters. With multi-winner ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. Multi-winner ranked-choice voting helps to more fairly represent the full spectrum of voters and promotes diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds and demographics. San Francisco’s use of single-winner ranked-choice voting in city elections lends to familiarity with this voting method. To learn more about the concepts of multi-winner ranked-choice voting (also called single transferable vote), watch this short video:
Member Feedback Favors Ranked-Choice Voting
The board wrote a blog post published on June 6 requesting member feedback on the proposed changes and received 36 emails in response. Two-thirds of the emails were favorable toward ranked-choice voting, and one included a petition with 60 signatures in support. Less than 15 percent of the emails opposed ranked-choice voting with the remainder raising questions or concerns. The board acknowledges that not all members support ranked-choice voting, and we take member concerns very seriously; please see our responses here.
Watch for Election Updates
We’re excited to roll out ranked-choice voting at our next board election in early 2018. In the coming weeks we will issue a more formal announcement of the election schedule and a formal call for director nominations. In the meantime, we encourage members who might be considering serving on the board to contact the board development committee at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the process.