Incorrect Ballot Papers

A place to discuss the issues relating to the proposed change in the national CTC’s structure.
Regulator
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby Regulator » 2 Dec 2010, 9:38pm

What is concerning is that the member database is so structured that we were only able to send about ballot papers with the magazine for about 40,000 of our 60,000 members. The rest are having to be sent out 'manually'.

Clarion
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby Clarion » 3 Dec 2010, 9:47am

Possibly bad form to quote myself, but I think we should receive answers to these questions
Clarion wrote:We should have a published protocol for acceptance/rejection of ballot papers.

1. Will papers be rejected if there is a blank vote?

2. Or will all votes be disregarded if there is an unverifiable vote on a paper?

3. Or will votes simply be counted, and any errors accepted?

4. Can we have an assurance that the same standard will apply to both 'yes' and 'no' votes.
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Kevin Mayne
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby Kevin Mayne » 3 Dec 2010, 11:51am

If this helps clarify some points in the thread.

The conduct of any CTC vote is set out in two ways.

Either it is fixed by rules set by company law or by our AGMs and written in to our various constitutional documents http://www.ctc.org.uk/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabID=3649

Or the procedures are set by the Council, by resolution or by one of its committees appointed for the task.

In this case the person who receives the votes, who gets papers and how they are sent out is included in the procedures set at AGMs, including reference to family, household and those not receiving a magazine. Therefore we have to achieve these minimum standards.

The decisions on how to count, who counts, who observes and what to do about complaints will be determined by the Council or based on the legal advice we receive. My job as Company Secretary and Peter Jackson’s job as Returning Officer are to carry out the procedures based on the advice or the policies agreed, to keep the records and publish the results.

No specific guidance exists on some of the points raised by Clarion but Peter worked extensively with ERS and our legal advisors this year and in previous years to establish best practice in these matters. Many of our members and Council members also have extensive experience of both governance and government elections so we will be guided by those processes which are very well established. People like Greg (Regulator) have made helpful suggestions this year, other suggestions can be considered between now and the count but they will most helpfully be tabled as suggestions to Peter at the usual email address peter.jackson@ctc.org.uk so that he can discuss them with the relevant Council members.

Our current advice to members is that if you have any doubt about any of the information on your form or you do not appear to have a form please contact Peter for a replacement for the avoidance of doubt.

I hope this helps, and we appreciate members' eye for detail in these things, it really helps.

Kevin

Clarion
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby Clarion » 3 Dec 2010, 3:24pm

I note that Peter will be out of the office until Tuesday, when he will no doubt have a large number of emails to attend to.
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JohnW
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby JohnW » 3 Dec 2010, 11:55pm

Right - look - never mind all this reporting to designated persons and supposedly getting things sorted out - how and why did this happen? How can those responsible be so out of touch and so inept?

My voting paper includes myself, my wife as family member, and both my daughters who long since ceased to qualify as family members and worse still, one of them appears twice on the voting paper.

It's all very well to ask those with incorrect papers to own up and ask for a correct paper, but here is a chance for me to register five votes in favour of the way in which I wish to vote - three of those votes would be invalid and possibly illegal. How do I or any of us know that all members with these incorrect papers have done the decent thing and notified the appropriate section of the club who, it will be remembered, got it wrong in the first place?

I hereby record that I for one do not recognise this ballot as being valid, and if the whole ballot is not stopped, new (correct) ballot papers issued and the process started again, I will seek to have the ballot annulled.

How can something so important, and contentious be messed up in this way?

If this ballot proceeds, and if the result is accepted, then this momentous decision could have been made actually against the voting of bona-fide members - whichever way it went.

Any response from those in high places?

Clarion
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby Clarion » 4 Dec 2010, 9:44am

John, you have a very valid point. The admin of any membership vote - never mind one of such moment - should be better conducted than this.

Perhaps this disaster will mean the executive can be finally persuaded that the problems with the membership dept are not just anecdotal, but are real, and are frustrating any attempt at democracy in the organisation.
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Kevin Mayne
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby Kevin Mayne » 4 Dec 2010, 10:25am

Please let me confirm.

We have procedures for this. Every request for a replacement form, every identified error is logged, both against the membership record and against a tally which will be kept. This will be published with the results as is custom and practice for all electoral processes and indeed for every contact between you as a member and CTC.

On Thursday the count stood at 14, including 1 lost form, we can be that precise. Officers will report these figures weekly to the relevant Council Committee and to our professional advisors and the Council will decide if there is a material problem which requires action.

Every quarter we report to the Council the status of all our complaints reports and we report annually to the AGM. These figures will appear there too.

These are never ignored. If you wish to complain formally about any aspect of CTC then you are free to contact me, but I can only treat complaints as official by a direct approach, forum comments are treated as discussion.

Thanks

Kevin

thirdcrank
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby thirdcrank » 4 Dec 2010, 11:39am

In one sense, I can see that this is no big deal; based on the disappointing response last time, we are not going to have reports of the Royal Mail having to dedicate extra vans to the delivery (unless the Goretex jacket starts an unexpected stampede.) OTOH, this isn't just a matter of the people who raise it as an issue getting good service. Some of the defects mentioned involve members appearing twice on a ballot paper. Obviously, that could be properly dealt with by the recipient ignoring or deleting the redundant column and I'd imagine that that's what most people would do, but nobody really knows. It would be easy for somebody to vote across every column without paying much attention to the number of columns. If it's decided by a landslide in either direction, this will be quickly forgotten, but there could very easily be a slender majority. In that case, the losers would inevitably be requesting a recount, which would not mean simply counting the forms in two neat piles, but every individual ballot paper would have to be checked against the list of members. It's quite common that different members of a family have identical names so that would be no help.

Presumably a decision has been taken already on how this will be dealt with. A wait and see approach would enable conspiracy theorists to cry 'foul.'

Clarion
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby Clarion » 4 Dec 2010, 12:58pm

Kevin, I understand what you are saying about registering complaints, but surely you must be aware and deeply concerned about the numbers of errors which have shown up, and that many will not be reported.

Verifying complaints against the membership record is no use if that membership record is so wrong that 20% of papers are in error. Were the lists of ballots not verified against the membership record in the first place, because, if they were, the error rate is massive. If the error was elsewhere, then the process is deeply flawed.

Sending out papers with extra voting spaces leaves the door wide open to using those votes either deliberately or in error, and makes it all the more important that you answer my questions upthread, which you should have considered in advance in any case.

All I am asking for is that my club does what it can to conduct a fair ballot. I am not hearing the reassurance that it will.
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sadjack
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby sadjack » 4 Dec 2010, 2:10pm

I was in a state of "which way should I vote?"

Having read this thread I am now leaning very much to voting "No"

As others have said, should we not get our house in order before committing ourselves ?

Whatever the result of this ballot, it has been undermined in my eyes.

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gaz
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby gaz » 4 Dec 2010, 5:54pm

Clarion wrote:Kevin, I understand what you are saying about registering complaints, but surely you must be aware and deeply concerned about the numbers of errors which have shown up, and that many will not be reported.

Verifying complaints against the membership record is no use if that membership record is so wrong that 20% of papers are in error. Were the lists of ballots not verified against the membership record in the first place, because, if they were, the error rate is massive. If the error was elsewhere, then the process is deeply flawed.

Sending out papers with extra voting spaces leaves the door wide open to using those votes either deliberately or in error, and makes it all the more important that you answer my questions upthread, which you should have considered in advance in any case.

All I am asking for is that my club does what it can to conduct a fair ballot. I am not hearing the reassurance that it will.


In any ballot there will always be errors. Where did you obtain a figure of a 20% error rate?

Peter Jackson's reply to me indicates that he is not satisifed with simply sending me a corrected voting form, he has started investigation of the underlying cause. Where he has been unable to trace the cause he has asked for a scan of the voting form to assist his investigation. How can you describe the process as deeply flawed until the true causes and extent of any errors are known?

Once particular errors are reported and the underlying causes known, similar unreported errors may also be identified. I hope that once identified they will also be subject to correction without individual reporting. However I'm an ordinary member and have no direct influence over these matters.
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Clarion
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby Clarion » 4 Dec 2010, 8:55pm

Gaz, I conducted a survey online.

Clarion wrote:We received a ballot paper for the four members in our house with five spaces on it, and one name repeated.

I am the person who started the quick'n'dirty survey in a place where a large number of CTC members visit, as I had picked up on the comments of others about their papers being wrong.

So far, we have ten members reporting incorrect ballot papers, three not yet received, and one received by a former member. This represents over 23% of the respondents. While there is no scientific methodology to that survey, it casts significant doubts on the preparations made for this ballot. I am certain, from my involvement in, inter alia, the National Trust, that the Charity Commissioners would not accept this degree of error, which raises questions in itself.

The Returning Officer should make the announcement much wider than just this forum, as we have an important and probably widespread issue here, and votes should be properly verified.

In addition, we should have a published protocol for acceptance/rejection of ballot papers. Will papers be rejected if there is a blank vote? Or will all votes be disregarded if there is an unverifiable vote on a paper? Or will votes simply be counted, and any errors accepted? Can we have an assurance that the same standard will apply to both 'yes' and 'no' votes.


The current figures are:

Respondents: 74
Ballot OK: 56
Ballot NOT OK: 13
Ballot not received: 4
Ballot received by ex-member: 1

So that makes 75.7% correct, 17.6% wrong, 5.4% not received, 1.4% sent in error.

Remember that many of these are multiple ballot papers, so we have a sample of well over 100 members, and 24.3% are incorrect. So my estimate was actually a bit low, Gaz.
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JohnW
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby JohnW » 4 Dec 2010, 9:43pm

I would establish one fact. The votes on this issue, cast by post and by hand at the AGM, showed a majority for a 'No' vote. The chairman, aware of this body of opinion, used his proxy powers to overturn that and precipitate a 'yes' vote.

If those giving the chairman the power of proxy had been required to either express their preference or abstain, which way would they have voted? Would there have been a 50/50 split or would they have followed the same pattern as the known votes cast? In either case, the 'No's' would have had it.

The chairman was, admittedly, in a very difficult position given the contentious nature of the issue. By constitution he does have that power, but whether his action was good custom and practice is another matter. As I see it, if the petition hadn't been made, then the decision would have been made against the expressed wishes of the membership.

Now, talking percentages, my family was offered 5 votes, 60% of which would have been invalid if used. I could unfairly have attempted to swing the voting in favour of my opinion.

I voted before, and I will eventually vote again. Even if the voting goes against my preference, then as long as the vote is fair and valid, Council will have a clear mandate.

However, if the ballot papers are wrong and invalid, then to my mind, the vote is not valid either. This really wants sorting. Doing it the way that those in high places appear to propose is patch and mend, and does not have my confidence.

swansonj
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby swansonj » 5 Dec 2010, 8:35am

Kevin Mayne wrote: On Thursday the count stood at 14, including 1 lost form, we can be that precise....


Kevin

Firstly, thank you for posting personally. That shows a willingness to listen to members' views and to respond that could begin to offset the impression of not listening to or caring about members that is part of the criticism of CTC that is often expressed here. I note you posted on a Saturday morning. That suggests it is actually you reading and responding rather than some minion in the office, so again thank you.

But, forgive me, the tone of your response is very much one of reassurance - "don't worry chaps, the number of errors is tiny, we have it all under control, there's nothing to worry about". Unless there's something you haven't yet told us, I don't think that is justified. More than one of the errors reported has been the erroneous duplication of a family member's name. The fact that this has happened more than once suggests to me a single fault that can generate this error. Until I knew what that fault was, I wouldn't feel I knew how many times it had happened that haven't been reported on these forums, and therefore I wouldn't feel reassurance was approriate.

So although I'm delighted you posted personally on a Saturday morning, I'm afraid the tone of your post actually reinforces rather than diminishes one of the key concerns that I and others have: that CTC leadership are refusing to admit to any of the problems that exist with the organisation and are hell bent on pressing ahead with plans for the organisation willy nilly.

John

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gaz
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Re: Incorrect Ballot Papers

Postby gaz » 5 Dec 2010, 9:36am

Clarion wrote:Gaz, I conducted a survey online....

The current figures are:

Respondents: 74
Ballot OK: 56
Ballot NOT OK: 13
Ballot not received: 4
Ballot received by ex-member: 1

So that makes 75.7% correct, 17.6% wrong, 5.4% not received, 1.4% sent in error.

Remember that many of these are multiple ballot papers, so we have a sample of well over 100 members, and 24.3% are incorrect. So my estimate was actually a bit low, Gaz.


Clarion, first of all apologies for missing your earlier post and thanks for responding.

I trust that you will encourage respondents with errors on their papers to contact Peter Jackson.
2020 : To redundancy ... and beyond!