Conference Voting goes Digital

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This year, the North Carolina Annual Conference is going digital as we vote for clergy and lay delegates to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. In the North Carolina Annual Conference, both laity and clergy will be voting for 9 GC delegates, 9 SEJ delegates each, and 5 alternates each.Though the number of delegates went down, the number of those who can participate (at least on the clergy side of things) went up. As of the last General Conference, provisional members of the annual conference (who have fulfilled their educational requirements) and local pastors (who have completed educational requirements and have served for two consecutive years prior to the election) are now eligible to vote on GC and SEJ delegates.

The changes should make things more interesting, and I welcome both. I believe that full time pastors who have been serving in their local churches for years have been excluded from this process for too long. Though eligibility for election as a clergy delegate remains unchanged, I find the move for greater participation in the voting process demonstrates greater equity and a new spirit of collegiality that finally acknowledges and recognizes the labor of love that these local pastors provide, serving the UM Church and their larger communities so faithfully and sacrificially.

It remains to be seen how digital voting might change things, but I can surmise a few possibilities:

  1. Instantaneous results digitally calculated without hanging chads or penciled-in ballots will likely remove a lot of human error. No doubt there will still be some error on the input end of things, so number dyslexic folk and the technically challenged should beware (though the G-3 does look like throw back to the old phones that had big numbers and a minimum of extra buttons). The devices also allow you to visually verify your entry before sending it on to be counted.
  2. No need for extra conference days and overworked tellers; no longer will there be a vote with no election results followed by 3 hours of more conference schedule waiting for results so another ballot can be taken! At the very least, the quick calculations probably mean that things will move fast and furious. On the other hand, having been a former teller in the ballot box days, I have to say that I will miss the ceremonial slamming of the wooden ballot box once the Bishop announces: “Ballot number 7 is closed!” … Bammmm!
  3. Less time to politic … no one wants to admit they happen, but the hallway and bathroom alliances that are sometimes made between ballots (often to help break stale-mate votes) will likely become a thing of the past. Guess if you are interested in being considered for the delegation for 2012, it would be best to say so early and often – and definitely prior to conference week.
  4. Would be hackers? Airway interference? Faulty devices? Dead batteries? Don’t know if any of these things will be real concerns, but I am sure there is a quick back up/replacement ready in any eventuality. I am also sure that given most clergy types, we don’t have to work about any security codes being broken, but if there were tech geniuses among us, I imagine there could be the possibility of “Mickey Mouse” getting the most votes if the system were ever hacked.


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