Just in case you weren’t already confused by the myriad ways to vote for directors of the coop, this explanation offered in the candidates’ packet by the chair of the election committee came as a nice draught of mud:
Remember, the best way to vote is to come to the annual meeting. But, if you choose to use one of these proxy choices, choose only one and follow all procedures carefully. If you fill out more than one proxy, then the later dated proxy will be valid. If you fill out a proxy you may still come to the annual meeting and vote by means of a ballot, but your proxy will be invalidated. If you fill out a proxy and then decide to come and you sign in at the meeting, it must be assumed that you voted at the meeting and your proxy will be invalidated. So, if you have already mailed in your directed proxy and are satisfied with your choices but you want to come to the meeting, please do so but do not sign in if you want your directed proxy counted. If you gave someone your general proxy, where you gave this other person the right to choose for you and vote for whomever that person may choose, but you now want to come to the meeting and vote for the candidates of your choice, then sign in, take a ballot and vote, and your ballot will be the one counted.
Got all that?
This isn’t all the coop’s fault — some of these rules are baked into the laws governing any corporation’s selection of officers in New York. But with 65% of shareholders regularly not voting every year, there are definitely things we could and should be doing to lower the barriers to participation.
Hiring an election management professional to administer the elections would give cooperators more convenient ways to vote. Votes could be cast online to replace proxies, and voting in person could be available in our lobbies for the whole day our annual meeting takes place.
For example, Election-America is a company that runs elections for corporations, labor unions, professional associations, and other entities, including Seward Park Coop. Touch-screen voting, guaranteed one vote per member security, and immediate results would encourage participation and trust in the election process. It’s a small expense to improve our democratic governance, one of the founding principles of cooperative living.